Truffle Oil

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Truffle oil is an oil that “seemingly” comes from truffles. In fact, truffle oil is a synthetic oil that is derived from chemicals, which are then infused into olive oil. So, lets clear the myth again ” most of the truffle oil products in the market are not made from truffles”. Only a select few companies produce authentic truffle oil, one that is extracted from truffles. But, what are these truffles ?

Truffles are fruits a fungi which belongs to the Tuber genus. It bears a resemblance to potato. Truffles have been held in high esteem by “chefs” throughout history. Even now, they are pretty costly and are used only for exotic dishes which mention that truffles are in them. Truffle dishes and recipes have always remained popular.

Truffle Oil
Truffle Oil (Image:Shutterstock)

Because of the high cost of truffles, producing real truffle oil becomes quite expensive. That is why, a synthetic truffle oil was created from a specific ester ( a chemical compound ) with an odor similar to actual truffles.

From a nutritional point of view, truffle oil has got nothing more than its base oil, which is often extra virgin olive oil. The light colored oil is obtained from white truffles, while the dark colored ones are from black truffles.

Source

Truffle oil, as mentioned, doesn’t come from truffles. However, the “real truffle oil “ comes from truffles. What is all this hype about truffles ?

Truffles are highly priced because of their exquisite taste and exotic nature. They are considered a delicacy in many places of the world. They are highly esteemed and used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. There are two main varieties of truffles.

Black Truffle – These are pitch black in color. When you cut them across, the black material is interspersed with whitish veins. It is also called Perigord truffles, because they grow in the Perigord region of France. Its biological name is Tuber melanosporum.

White Truffle – This truffle comes mainly from many parts of Italy, and is more common in Italian exotic cuisine. White truffles have a pale colored flesh with a gleaming white surface which looks like marble. It is mostly white with patches of other colors. They can easily weigh a pound, although large ones can weigh several pounds. Its biological name is Tuber magnatum.  What is most striking is their price.

White truffle
White truffle ( Photo credit : MatthiasKabel )

In 2009, the price of White truffles was over $ 14,000 per kg. This makes truffles one of the most expensive foods on the planet.

The real obtained from black truffles is called black truffle oil, and similarly from the white ones is called white truffle oil. These oils can easily cost well over $ 90 per ounce.

There are a few other varieties of Truffles.

  • Tuber aestivum – known as Burgundy truffle or Black Summer truffle. It is found in many parts of Europe.
  • Tuber lyonii – Called pecan truffles because they are found near pecan trees.
  • Tuber macrosporum – called Garlic truffle.

Did you know ? 
Truffle searching is done with trained pigs and the Lagotto Romagnolo breed of dogs that are trained too.

Black truffles
Black truffles ( Photo credit : Wikipedia  )

Properties 

Most of the truffle oil on the market still doesn’t contain any real truffle ingredients. In fact, it never even touched truffles. It only contains chemicals added to olive oil, or in some cases, grapeseed oil. The chemicals added are 2,4 – dithiapentane, which is a ester. Now, the thing about esters is that they are used as synthetic nature mimicking flavors. It is used in fruit juices to make the juice taste and smell like original fruit.

Black truffle oil is created by adding bismethyl(dithio)methane [1] . As a result of this practice, truffle oil does not have any other nutritional properties besides the base oil. It may also contain some negative health effects brought on by these added chemicals.

Truffle hunting dog - Lagotto romagnolo
Truffle hunting dog – Lagotto romagnolo ( Photo credit : Wikipedia )

How to Find Real Truffle Oil
This is really very difficult. Synthetic truffle oil is generally cheaper than genuine truffle oil. But, many real truffle oil makers may not contain any truffle ingredients at all, and instead contain adulterants. So, choosing a “real truffle oil” becomes very difficult. To be able to identify any difference in taste and odor, one needs to have had a lot of experience with truffles and cooking with them. If you are thinking of buying truffle oil, like for your restaurant, it is better to consult a reputed chef on the brands which are selling authentic oil made from truffles. That’s about how hard it gets.

If you do get your hands on natural truffle oil, then it may possible contain the following properties and lend some health benefits in excess of olive oil.

What to do with synthetic truffle oil ?

If you possess the artificial truffle oil, one can make use of it in many truffle oil recipes to provide the flavor of truffles. However, many chefs agree that synthetic truffle oil is just a waste of money. One the other hand, genuine truffle oil is rich and very much worth it.

Nutritional Facts About Truffles

Hardly anything is known about truffle oil as of now. But, there is some research work done on the nutritional facts of truffles[2]. Here are the salient features from this study.

  • Truffles have wide variations in nutritional content in betwen different truffle varieties.
  • They contain about 60 % carbohydrates
  • Protein content can be about 20 %
  • Fat content ranges from 3 – 7 %, which is somewhat on the lower side. It contains both saturated and unsaturated fats.
  • There is some dietary fiber, which obviously doesn’t end up in real truffle oil.
  • Truffles are excellent sources of minerals, but low in Vitamins, except for Vitamin C. They are great source of most minerals needed by humans, like copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, sodium, potassium and calcium. But they also contain some amounts of aluminium.

Truffles have been identified to possess medicinal properties.

  • They are strong antioxidants.
  • Truffles act as Immunomodulators. They can control immune function to match the required level. This prevents the side effects from an overactive immune system, and also boosts a weak immune system.
  • They are also believed to be Anti-Tumors.
  • They are potent anti-bacterials.

If Truffle oil were extracted solely from truffles, it would have high antioxidant capacity, average fatty acid profile and anti-bacterial action.  But, even now there are very few real truffle oils, and even they are not fully made from truffles.

Truffle Oil Benefits

References

1. Composition of commercial truffle flavored oils with GC-MS analysis and discrimination with an electronic nose. Pacioni G, Cerretani L, Procida G, Cichelli A.
2. Mushrooms and Truffles: Historical Biofactories for Complementary Medicine in Africa and in the Middle East.  Hesham El Enshasy,  Elsayed A. Elsayed,  Ramlan Aziz, and Mohamad A. Wadaan

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