[a medicinal cooking blog: using food as medicine to treat whatever may ail you]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ode to the Pig and its Truffle

In light of the recent swine mania that is seemingly sweeping across the planet, I thought I'd do a little PR on behalf of pigs. Though they don't know why this swine flu started they do hypothesize it comes from our extremely poor breeding habits of these incredibly intelligent and would-be-clean animals if we allowed them to live as such. Here's a good link for more on this: TEXT

So, onto the truffle pig... a truffle pig isn't actually a genus or type of pig, but rather any female pig that is trained to hunt down truffles. Truffle pigs are the reason you even get to eat truffles. While they have managed to train dogs to hunt down truffles no one does it like a truffle pig - their noses are impeccable for finding these luscious earthy treats that cost anywhere from $350-$500/lb. and I've seen higher quotes! Basically, the trained pig is let loose and is followed until it hunts down the illusive truffle which is generally found growing between Sept-May in France (black truffles), Italy (white truffles), and in the NW of the U.S. (grey or black and red truffles) and about 30 cm below ground. Truffles are actually the fruit of the truffle fungi that grow next to trees and is in the Tuber genus. Now how does this tie in with food as medicine? Well, a truffle has a long history of being medicinal! It is thought to be an aphrodisiac (good link on a story about this: TEXT), and in TCM fungi are considered very tonic (nourishing) for your liver and for clearing "heat". An example of clearing heat is the fungi's anti-carcinogenic traits, as cancer is often a "heat" type illness. I don't want to get uber technical here with TCM terms but I will post about TCM guidelines and theories at some point to help explain more in depth about TCM nutrition. And with that I will leave you, hopefully a little more sympathetic to some pigs! And craving a truffle.

Oregon black truffles.

Vietnamese pot bellied pigs.

Me with my pig, Cuchi, in Paris - pretending she was a truffle hunter!

Truffle Recipe

If you are keen to try truffles, I would recommend that you do so on a plain butter and parmesan pasta, then shave a few paper thin slices of truffle onto your pasta (this would of course require a truffle shaver and a very expensive truffle!). You want to experience the truffles flavor in it's purest form. For other recipes, here is a link to a cooking site that has a section dedicated to truffle recipes: TEXT


Brenda Crow said...

One of my friends (Molly) just brought me a beautiful, ripe Oregon black truffle she hunted. I have always been convinced that our NW truffles don't compare to their European (black) counterparts...but I was proven wrong. It was aromatic and intensely flavorful. I ate it with scrambled eggs three days in a row, then shaved it on a pizza with a few different cow's and sheep's milk cheeses. Molly suggested I warm the shaved truffle in fat first, as it brings all the flavors to the forefront. I lightly warmed it in the butter before I tossed the egg in. Delicious! Maybe next time she can bring me along for the hunt!!

The Spice Doc said...

Oh my! That is SO cool!! If she ever takes you on the hunt, that will merit a visit from me to Portland so keep me posted. Does she use a pig or a dog? So interesting!

Brenda Crow said...

They used a dog...she was invited by Oregon's truffle king, Jack Czarneck. I should be so lucky next time. We do go mushroom hunting often though (other than truffles). I'm going to have to plan something concrete to bring you for a visit!