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The Castelnaudary truffle market

The Castelnaudary truffle market

We’re heading for the truffle market in Castelnaudary!

I invited my partner for a day out to discover the black truffle Tuber Melanosporum.. I love this mushroom that grows in the earth at the foot of oak trees. With its irregular black, cracked appearance, a firm and crunchy texture, its so particular fragrance, captivating and intoxicating, one taste and you’ll be back for more…

In February, the black truffle season is in full swing, as it is harvested from November to March. The harvest is called ‘cavage’, you ‘cave’, or extract, the truffles.

We arrive in the small place in Verdun and take a walk round the market. I’m going to taste the delicious food on Zara’s stand: she serves me a hot Moroccan pancake stuffed with chickpea hummus and truffles! Fabulous, I complement this pleasure with a small glass of Cabardès wine from the stall next door… Mmmm, it’s a party for the taste buds!

 

At 10:00am, chef Jean-Jacques Parayre is in the Halle de Verdun, we sit down to watch his demonstration of truffled recipes. And he gives us a taste as we go, it’s great: an omelette, an avocado guacamole, toast with truffle butter, the whole hall smells of the scent of truffle. The smells mingle and perfume the room.

Meanwhile, the truffle growers arrive with their produce in front of the ATA office: l’Association des Trufficulteurs de l’Aude. Yann and Christelle welcome them, register them and carefully sort the truffles; you have to smell them first to check for freshness A good truffle should be firm, and have a good smell: a mixture of humus and musk. Parts that are too soft or too dry are cut off and discarded. This is called ‘canifer’ the truffles. When they are cut, we can see the white veining, it must be visible but not take over, this would mean that the truffle is too ripe.

 

At 11:00am all the sellers are ready, and a rope keeps the buyers 2 metres from the stalls. BANG!The gunshot gives the signal, the rope drops, and it’s a mad rush! In under 20 minutes, 12 kg of truffles change hands. I chose my truffle, all it takes is a small piece to treat yourself. I’m going to use it to flavour eggs and rice and make truffle butter for my spaghetti. I think about my recipes on the way back to the ‘cavage’, or extraction, demonstration. Corinne hid a few truffles in an area laid out the day before in the square: big planks, sand, small oaks planted in the middle, that should do the trick. She then brings in Java, her little curly Lagotto dog ​​who runs her nose along the ground in the sand. That’s it, she has smelled something, she scratches with her paw, sits down and looks at her mistress. Corinne finds the truffle and congratulates Java with a treat.
Under the large Halle aux Grains, the long-awaited truffled meal will be served. There are 300 guests for this taste experience. The members of the Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary , in their yellow tunics, cheerfully welcome the Confrérie des Trufaïres de Villeneuve Minervois , dressed in their capes and black hats. Today, the mayor and the president of the community of communes of Castelnaudary are inducted. And to seal this alliance between the lands of Cassoulet and truffles, the starter consists of toast with truffled Castelnaudary beans.
After this meal worthy of a great chef, Bethany, a guide at the Tourist Office, takes us on a guided tour through the old town. We discover the pretty ochre façades of the mansions, and the great organs in the majestic Collégiale St Jean. Then, from the top of the Mill, I contemplate the Lauragais plain, with its fields of green wheat waving in the wind from the sea. Come on, let’s go home, I have decided to train my Labrador dog to hunt truffles, and there’s work to be done!
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