SHARE
A leader in her field … The head of the truffle-hunting team, 5-year-old labrador-pointer cross Freddy, looks pleased with her efforts. PHOTO: SUPPLIEDĀ 

By ROBYN BRISTOW

A giant truffle yielded from the limestone soils of the Waipara Gorge will give craft beer drinkers something to cheer about.

The 137-gram Perigord truffle was sniffed out at Kings Truffles, on its eight-hectare 1000-tree truffiere.

It is destined to be crafted into a special-edition beer brewed by Amberley’s Brew Moon, which should be ready by the end of the month.

Kings Truffles general manager Jax Lee says there has already been some “little” test brews. “It’s amazing and my husband is extremely excited by the prospect,” she says.

But there will still be enough left over of the prized fungi for Jax, in collaboration with chef Sam Campbell, to make a few specialty food products that Kings Truffles will sell via its website shop, at the Amberley Farmers Market and “hopefully a few other pop-up events”, Jax says.

“If there is any left over we will put it into our Kings Truffles truffled butter.”

Jax says the earthy delicacy was sniffed out by their 5-year-old dog, Freddy, on an evergreen oak.

“I would have been a bit upset if she had missed that one,” she says. “Its amazing and a whopper”.

Jax says they have previously found a few big truffles at their operation, but this is the first one that is consistently ripe. Often, the bigger ones are half rotten or soiled in some way.

She says Freddy’s find could be a New Zealand record, while in Australia a 1.5kg giant black winter truffle was found at the Yarra Valley Truffles farm in Victoria in 2016.

Once safely extracted from the ground, Jax turned to the challenge of finding a market for the giant truffle. She is excited it is staying local.

Her next challenge was to clean it, carefully, with a nail brush or tooth brush, getting into the crevasses with a small pick.

The find comes as North Canterbury truffieres report larger than normal truffles this season. Jax says autumn rain has been really good for last-minute growth.

The Perigord black truffle is considered to be the finest edible fungi.

Kings Truffles is a leader in the local truffle industry. In-season, chefs and the public can buy them directly or via its online store. Jax says the truffle butter is also selling well online.

Kings Truffles is the primary truffiere of the business started in 2013 by Bill Lee. Bill and Jax work together on the daily running of it and their other blocks.

Truffle festival returns

By DAVID HILL

Canterbury Truffle Festival is back this weekend, with truffle hunts and chances to taste the winter delicacy.

Organiser Gareth Renowden, of Waipara, said the annual festival was New Zealand’s only celebration of the prestigious fungi.

It runs from July 14-29.

Truffles are the underground fruiting bodies of fungi that grow in lime-rich soils in association with trees such as hazels, oaks and pines.

Mr Renowden said New Zealand’s black and white truffles could command prices in excess of $3000 a kilogram.

“North Canterbury is at the heart of the fast-growing New Zealand truffle business. The region boasts more truffle producers than any other part of the country, with at least 15 truffieres supplying top quality Perigord black, bianchetto, Burgundy and winter black truffles to the nation’s finest restaurants, lodges and hotels.

“Every year, new truffieres come into production, new truffieres are planted and the region’s harvest continues to grow.”

The Canterbury Truffle Festival was launched in 2015. This year’s event will include truffle tastings, demonstrations and sales at farmers’ markets in Christchurch, Lyttelton and Amberley.

There were also truffle hunts and lunches at Waipara wineries Pegasus Bay and Black Estate, which “were so popular they sold out in a matter of hours”, Mr Renowden said.

Truffle dinners were also being offered at The Tannery and the Hotel Montreal in Christchurch, while chef Jimmy McIntyre is offering a truffle-cooking class at Otahuna Lodge.

For more information, visit the festival website at canterburytrufflefestival.nz or the Canterbury Truffle Festival page on Facebook.