Thinking of purchasing your first fresh Summer Truffles to cook at home? We broke down our knowledge about this truffle variety after supplying it to some of the best restaurants in the world (Le Bernardin, Masa, Atera…) for many years. Here is everything you should know about one of the most elusive truffles out there.
So...what are Summer Truffles?
Summer truffles, (Tuber Aestivum) also known as Black Summer Truffles, refer to a truffle variety that grows in Southern Europe (France, Italy, Spain) and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary) between the months of April and August. They have a light and delicate aroma and flavor which explains that they are the most affordable variety of truffles. They are often described as nutty, creamy and sweet.
Why are Summer Truffles misunderstood?
Summer Truffles are very popular amongst chefs, but the public is unfamiliar with their true taste because they are usually paired with truffle-flavored products. Ironically, those products do not reciprocate the actual taste of Summer Truffles but that of the more pungent Black or White Winter truffles. Chances are your first taste of a fresh Summer Truffle will be very different from what you expect, but that shouldn’t be a reason to shy away from them! It just means it’s time to talk about the full spectrum of truffle flavors as opposed to one and only truffle flavor that many chase in vain because it doesn’t truly exist. There are as many truffle flavors as there are truffle varieties, and even within each variety, you will never find two truffles that taste, smell and look exactly the same.
Summer truffles are black on the outside as their skin is dark and coarse, however they are not to be mistaken with Black Truffles which refer to the superior variety of Winter Truffles (Tuber Melanosporum) also known as Perigords. Many people, including restaurants, fail to mark this distinction on menus, which is very misleading to the consumer. Summer Truffles have a light hue on the inside, the flesh varies between white, cream color, light brown and dark brown, often depending on the stage of the season (the later into the season the darker they become). They are also sometimes described as White Summer Truffles which is another inaccurate name because of the allusion to White Winter Truffles, also a much superior grade. If you are at a restaurant and the menu mentions Black Truffles with no further specification, you should always ask if they are Winter or Summer Truffles, as the latter should not justify a steep price.
What makes Summer Truffles different from Winter varieties?
We’re now approaching the heart of the matter: how come Summer Truffles aren’t as expensive as Black Winter or White Winter Truffles? Market price varies each year and truffle prices change weekly, but to give you an idea, Winter truffles’ retail price is typically two to four times higher than that of Summer Truffles.
Appearance is far from the only thing that sets them apart from other varieties. Most importantly, Summer Truffle’s aroma, flavor and sometimes texture is completely different from both Black Winter truffles and White Winter truffles and much lighter - hence the lower cost. This is crucial information when purchasing Summer Truffles: you should not expect a similar tasting experience as with Winter (Black or White) or even Burgundy (Fall) truffles. Part of the confusion around Summer Truffles come from the fact that the word “Truffle” is associated with very specific flavors that apply to the two most popular (and expensive) truffle varieties (Black & White Winter Truffles).
Black Winter Truffles are deeply earthy, umami-packed truffles with notes of chocolate. White Winter Truffles (Alba Truffles) are very pungent and garlicky, with notes of aged cheese.
If you expect Summer Truffles to deliver on the same flavors and aroma mentioned above, you’d be disappointed but also wrong: they are simply a different product. It’d be like expecting a Provence rosé wine to be as bold and full-bodied as a Cabernet Sauvignon red wine. However, if you are curious about the elusive Summer Truffles and keep an open mind, they can be a great ingredient.
What can you expect from Summer Truffles?
So if Summer Truffles don’t have that classic truffle flavor that everyone is crazy about, what do they taste like and are they worth it? The answer here will always be a subjective one, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Are you a truffle nerd interested in seasonality, terroir and nuances of flavors or simply a curious foodie? If so, go for it! Are you just looking to boost your Sunday night Pasta & Netflix dinner with a pungent truffle flavor? Summer Truffles aren’t going to necessarily achieve that and what you need is something like Black or White Truffle Oil. Now that your expectations are set, here is what a nice Summer Truffles can deliver on: a delicate, sweet and buttery flavor and aroma with notes of hazelnuts and almonds.
How to best use Summer Truffles?
There are mainly two ways you can go with summer truffles, let’s call the first one the “classic style” since this is what many restaurants choose to do. This method consists in using summer truffles more like a garnish than an actual ingredient. The pros? You only need a small amount of fresh truffles and a good truffle oil and it’s very easy. The cons? This is not the most adventurous way to use Summer Truffles. Create a simple dish like truffle pasta, truffled eggs or truffle risotto using our Black Truffle Oil. We recommend Black Truffle Oil and not white because it is more delicate and black winter truffles are closer to summer truffles in taste, they also share the same terroir as they very often grow in the same areas. Simply shave fresh truffles on top of your dish to add dimension in both taste and visual. Now moving on to the second option that we can call ”Purist Style” and is all about staying as true as possible to the subtle taste of Summer Truffles. This is a route that many Michelin starred chefs choose to take, it’s not as simple because it requires more creativity and research to find ingredients that will pair beautifully with Summer Truffles and adorn their flavor instead of overpowering it. But you got this! Dishes that do not require cooking the ingredients such as crudos, tartares or even salads work best for the “Purist Style” Summer Truffle recipes as they will allow for the flavors to come through. Plus, these lighter types of dishes are more “summery” and therefore in tune with the seasonality of the product. The idea is to skip truffle-infused products and embrace the fresh, nutty and buttery aspect of Summer Truffles. If you still want a hint of that classic umami-packed black winter truffle flavor, you can still top your dish with a small amount of our Truffle Salt, which will tease deep earthy notes without covering the taste of the fresh Summer Truffles.
We hope this helps you determine whether Summer Truffles are the right pick for you. If there is anything else you’d like us to cover or any questions come up, you can message us via Instagram @trufflinnyc