LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 11. Follow us all summer long as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms.
One of the rarest and most expensive foods can’t be harvested by hand. Truffles grow 3 – 12 inches underground on a tree’s root system, and here, on the Keep Your Fork farm in King, NC, truffles grow under this hazelnut orchard. Farm owner and trufficulteur Jane Morgan Smith herself can’t even find the truffles. She leaves that to her dog.
Historically, pigs were used to dig up truffles growing underground (for their keen sense of smell). But they couldn’t train the pigs to stop eating the prize.
“Once the truffle is found, the farmer scrapes back the earth, being careful not to touch the truffle with his or her hands (which will cause the fungus to rot). If the truffle isn’t ripe, it’s carefully reburied for future harvesting,” pg. 708, Food Lover’s Companion
This precarious delicacy with its tedious harvest makes it a culinary delight. Someone once described the truffle’s earthy flavor as the “taste after it rains.” And these are Perigord Black Truffles, the crème de la crème of fungus.
Jane’s truffle butter (available online) is wonderful spread on some rustic toast or stirred into your own grits, or melted atop some delicate flounder fillets. The aroma is intriguingly earthy and the taste is of intense mushrooms squared.
Try Jane’s truffles this month on the Parmesan-Crusted Pork Cutlet with creamy grits topped with truffle butter and summer squash. The dish is part of our “Suddenly Summer menu,” featuring “Locavore’s Delight.” This special menu is a 2012 Finalist for the Best in North Carolina restaurant competition.
We met Jane Morgan Smith through Chef Leigh Hesling of Green Valley Grill and Print Works Bistro fame. He purchased some truffles from her and she invited us out to visit her grove. I didn’t see much use for the truffles on our menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. Then, this winter, we were preparing our entry for the Best Dish in NC competition when we ran into Jane again at the Piedmont Grown annual gathering.
She mentioned that the new crop of truffles was being harvested and she’d have plenty of truffle butter in the near future. I decided to finish our wonderfully creamy Guilford Mill grits with some truffle butter for the Best Dish contest.
And that was that.
For more on Jane’s truffles, visit her blog where you’ll find lots of information “about our trials and tribulations along the way,” she says, or fan up the facebook page and find her truffle products from the Web site www.TrufflesNC.com
Posted June 2012