Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Food for the Million: Truffles (1907)

Truffles for the Million? What an amazing fantasy. It was a dream of one early twentieth century scientist, as I am about to show you. History has proven however, that this particular dream did not come true.

The story comes from The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales (Taree, NSW) of 1 June 1907

Science has achieved another triumph, which will affect the food supply of the world to a considerable degree and cause immense happiness among a great body of gourmets and lovers of good living. M. Emile Boulanger, of the Institute of France, has succeeded in cultivating the famous truffles of Perigord by a process which is almost equivalent to artificial germination.
Hitherto truffles have only been found wild, and It has been impossible to cultivate them by transplanting or by any other of many methods which have been tried. The truffles of Perigord which are the only ones that are greatly in demand, will not grow anywhere but in this district of France. It is well recognised that there would be a handsome fortune for many farmers if they grow them, but that has hitherto been impossible.
Truffles are a very valuable article of food, containing a high proportion of nutritive bodies. Many thousands of people consider them the most delicious of all flavouring for sauces and many dishes. The cost, however, places them beyond general use.
A simple and entertaining but very lengthy process of obtaining the natural truffle is at present employed. The pig has an unerring sent [sic] for truffles. The farmer puts a ring in the nose of a lively and intelligent pig and takes him out walking. Presently the pig arrives at a spot where a truffle is buried, often two or threefeet in the earth. He tries to dig for it, but the ring prevents him. The farmer quickly throws up the earth with, his spade, pockets the truffle, and continues the search. Occasionally he gives a slice of the worthless outside of the truffle to the pig in order to quiet his discontent.
But to resume the amount [sic] of the new triumph. M. Boulanger, by microscopical examination, discovered the germinating property or seed of the truffle which had never been isolated before. This property lies in the spores of the transparent asci, or bladder, of the root. He planted these on various nourishing substances, such as bread, potatoes, and carrots, und finally he found that they grew upon beetroots, which contain an enormous proportion of sugar, a substance necessary to the growth of the truffle. He placed these beetroots in bottles,  sterilised and constructed in such manner that they would admit the free passage of fresh air but prevent the entry of disease germs. Upon the beetroot developed the spawn, or mycelium of Perigord truffles, and after that small truffles. The spawn, when planted developed into excellent truffles, and there is every reason to believe that it can be planted in other parts of the world whore the climate and soil are suitable.
"I have now 3,000 bottles of truffle spawn in my laboratory." M. Boulanger informs us. “As to the extent of my experimental farm, which I shall be glad to show you any day you like to go there with me,  it covers many acres of chalky soil, planted with small oak trees. It is beneath these that the spawn after it has been manipulated in a manner which I will explain to you on a later occasion, is planted: and whenever I have a favourable result a number is attached to the nearest tree."
Finally, M. Boulanger expressed his opinion that the economical cultivation of truffles would in time become as easy as the growing of mushrooms.

I wonder if, in time, truffles will indeed become an easy affordable crop. What do you think? And would they then still hold the same allure for gourmets around the globe?

The recipe for the day is for a Truffle Sauce, which I am sure you will make frequently if and when the marvelous mushroom is cheap and available.

Truffle Sauce for Turkies, &c.
Put green truffles into water, clean them well with a hard brush, and cutting the outside parings thinly off, trim them into shapes; put the trimmings into a mortar, pound and add them to the forcemeat which is to be put into the cavity near the breast of the turkey. Then set the truffles in a stewpan with a pint of beef broth, stew them gently, and when the liquor is almost reduced add some well seasoned cullis.

The Art of Cookery, (1836) by John Mollard.

1 comment:

korenni said...

Since we Million have plenty of pilchards, rice, soybeans, and rabbit, I guess we can do without truffles. And I have to say, I had a slice of truffle once. It tasted like dirt.