The Winter or 'Périgord' black truffle is native to the Mediterranean regions of France, Italy, parts of Croatia, Serbia, and the greater parts of northern Spain. They are found at 250m-1000m above sea level and the season runs from late December until March, provided that the regions receive a good downpour in July and August to encourage the infant truffles to swell.
When lifted from the earth black truffles look like a lump of charcoal. The size varies from as small as a raisin to as big as an orange, although even larger specimens emerge. The skin is ink black with a reddish tinge (though this can indicate a lack of ripeness). The surface when washed is made up of tiny pyramids likened to diamonds fresh from the cutter. The inside is a deep chocolate colour, veined with tightly packed, caramel-coloured spore material that is as smooth as silk.
In the European Summer Months, Black Truffles are available from Chile and Australia and are every bit as good as their European counterparts.
Usage: This famed truffle is the prize ingredient of chefs everywhere. While you will find many connoisseurs have different opinions on the preparation of Black truffles, there are some universally respected precepts: Black Truffles are best if used when cooking a dish, and added towards the end as their aroma and flavour are long-lasting, and will seep into your preparation.
The French adore their Périgord diamond when used in scrambled eggs or an omelette, as eggs easily assimilate the subtle earthy flavour of black truffles. This is also a very easy way of using black truffles since it leaves almost no room for error. Most vegetables with clean, fresh flavours contrast nicely with the intensely pungent essence of truffles, especially celery root, leeks and cabbage.
The Precious Black Truffle must be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator, wrapped individually in an absorbent paper, making sure that it always remains dry. The fresh truffle can also be wrapped in paper towels and closed in a glass container, always in the refrigerator. This method allows the preservation of the precious black truffle for about ten days.