The truffle fraud - counterfeit truffles by fraudsters
Unfortunately, counterfeit truffles by fraudsters are becoming more and more common
Most people have probably never seen, let alone smelled, a fresh truffle. In addition, the truffle is often confused with the chocolate praline. But nowadays we live in a globalized world, so everyone who wants has access to fresh, seasonal, regional organic truffles. The downside of the global world is that fraud works just as easily as ordering quality goods.
But how do I tell the difference between real truffles and fakes?
Unscrupulous scammers have come up with clever tricks to cheat truffle fans.
But let's start with a little history and the different types of edible truffles:
Black truffles - Counterfeit truffles
Early French gourmet chefs used truffles in large quantities because in regions like Perigord, Provence or Burgundy, many truffles were found wild. In addition, 50 years ago truffles were not as expensive as they are today because there was less demand. Therefore, in the classic French recipes Sentences such as: "Boil the chicken and fill it with truffles!" And so on
Such large amounts of truffles in dishes are not necessary because real truffles naturally have a very intense taste. Therefore, the truffle is nowadays used more as a spice and not as a side dish. In addition, a black truffle retains its aroma even if you cook it.
Today there is more demand for truffles, but unlike in the past, there are now cultivated truffles that grow on plantations. And there are delivery companies that can deliver truffles all over the world by plane in a very short time. Truffle plantations already exist all over the world, in addition to Europe there are harvests from America to Asia to North Africa, Australia and New Zealand. One of the reasons why the same type of truffle is often subject to very different prices is its origin. Black truffles from Romania, for example, are cheaper than those from France, Spain or Italy. This is due to the climatic conditions and the soil composition. The truffle price also determines, among other things, the economic structure and the gross national income of a country in which the truffle plantation was established. The quality can therefore be quite different.
Then there are, on the other hand, types of truffle that are visually very similar to expensive edible truffles, but do not smell or taste like anything. Truffle fraudsters therefore often mix cheap dark truffles with the real black truffles and add a little smell-intensive truffle oil and sell the whole box at high prices.
White truffles - Counterfeit truffles
It is a little different with the real white truffle. The tuber magnatum pico can only be found wild so far. Nobody has yet succeeded in cultivating the queen of truffles. Fortunately, the Alba truffle grows in several regions of Europe, mainly in southern countries such as Spain, France, Italy or Croatia. Unlike the black truffle, the white truffle must not be cooked! Their garlic flavor, which can be used in a camembert, is not heat resistant! Therefore, the Alba truffle is often grated or sliced raw over dishes.
The season lasts roughly between October and January. The truffle season of the Tuber magnatum pico usually ends with the first frost in the ground, because this type of truffle does not tolerate periods of frost. The queen of the truffles is sensitive, demanding in terms of the choice of host tree, she is picky compared to her black relatives. That makes them rare and therefore very expensive. Therefore I find the term “queen” very apt. Queens are often known for having airs and they are rare and quite rich ;-)
Now back to the topic: Northern Italy has managed to increase the awareness of the white truffle beyond its national borders in the last 50 years.
Since the Alba truffle smells very intensely, it is used exclusively as a spice. Incidentally, a single bulb of truffle can perfume a large dining room. When it comes to aromas, the queen of truffles also holds the record among the edible truffle species.
Summer truffles - Counterfeit truffles
Unlike the alba truffle, summer truffles (tuber aestivum) can be harvested much longer. The season is from May to September. The following rule of thumb applies here: “The later the season, the more intense the taste!” Therefore, the price of truffles rises the later the season is. Thanks to the global economy, it is now possible to get summer truffles even in winter. The Australians are now quite successful in growing truffles and because it is summer in Australia when the European winter arrives. There are more and more European restaurateurs who also offer dishes with fresh Tuber aestivum in winter. Asians have also been cultivating black truffles with the botanical name Tuber indicum for decades. This food truffle looks very similar to the tuber aestivum and tuber uncinatum or the tuber melanosporum, only that the Asian truffle is of inferior quality and only has a very mild taste. In Chinese cuisine, this type of truffle is cooked into sauces in large quantities because the price is relatively low.
Pickled truffles in bottles or cans
In some shops pickled black truffles are offered in cans or bottles, unfortunately this type of packaging is particularly well suited to mix cheap types of truffle with the expensive black types and to sell the whole product as high quality. So please keep your hands off such sham packs!
Truffle oil - counterfeit truffles
In the case of many so-called truffle oils, the fraud is particularly brazen. Most truffle oils don't even contain a real truffle molecule. The (legal, by the way) fraud works like this:
Chemists in the food industry have developed a synthetic truffle aroma that does not completely imitate the complex smell and taste of a real truffle. But hardly distinguishable for the human underdeveloped nose. I mean, some animals have a much more sensitive olfactory organ compared to humans. This synthetic material, which is reminiscent of truffles, is quite cheap to produce. These truffle oils have never seen a real tuber (probably dreamed of him ;-) and are still sold as expensive truffle oil !? The very name “truffle oil” should be prohibited by law. You might have to call it “oil with a truffle aroma” with a price of no idea 59 cents per 100ml bottle. A high-quality olive oil can cost 5 euros per liter or more. Because I think that at least a good quality oil should be used for a "truffle oil".
To check it is best to read the label on the back of the bottle. If the list of ingredients says aroma or truffle flavor, then chemical truffle flavor is included. If you find truffle flakes in the truffle oil bottle, these are only for beautification, they only add very little truffle flavor to the oil. With the truffle chunks in the oil, it's cheat perfect. Because how should 1% or 4% truffles flavor a whole bottle of oil? This is too little! Use a truffle oil that contains at least 5% real truffles.
The summary of the entire blog post is:
Study the ingredient list of every truffle product carefully! Preferably; eat truffles that come from plantations you trust. Of course, there are also trusted truffle hunters who collect wild truffles. Perhaps you will go on a truffle hunt one day, you will like it, I promise you ;-)