Every time we pay between ten and fifteen euros for a 100 ml bottle of “white or black truffle oil” and it seems expensive, we must think that we are both right and wrong.
We are right because we are paying an outrage for an oil that at most can cost this amount of money for ten times more volume, that is, for a liter of virgin olive oil. And we are wrong because we think we pay for an oil with extract and aroma of natural truffles.
But in reality the aroma is given by the chemical additives added to oilwhich, after all, is nothing more than refined olive oil with aromatic chemical additives, especially 2,4-dimethylpentanea very volatile compound with aromas similar to gas that is terribly reminiscent of truffles and that, accompanied by other additives, forms a very similar smell, even much more powerful.
In reality, for a 100 ml bottle of oil flavored with “real” truffles -which also exist- we will have to pay amounts between 30 and 60 euros depending on whether the truffle slices used come from black or white spaces. But it is a very minority product.
In exchange, we will obtain a much more complex, subtle and less powerful aroma than that of our 10-euro bottle, but that is what truffles really offer. This was reported in 2007 by the Californian chef and gastronomic writer Daniel Patterson in a report in The New York Timeswhere he reveals what was an open secret in the restaurant industry: the truffle oil used in restaurants in the United States does not contain truffles.
In the report, Patterson spoke with different colleagues who confessed that they used flavored oil with chemical additives because allowed to cheapen the dishes that were served, as well as because its aromatic power is much more spectacular than that of the aroma of the real truffle, which is more delicate and also lasts less time. Instead, the smell of 2,4-dimethylpentane can last for months without dissipating.
A legal additive
Although now many of us discover that that little bottle that we keep on the kitchen shelf for flavor salads, or fried eggsdoes not actually contain the aroma of anything other than synthetic compounds, we should not think that it is a fraud, at least not in principle.
The legislation allows this type of additives as long as they don’t harm. health, and there are no studies showing that these compounds do. Another issue is whether we as consumers are well informed, or not, that the truffle has been replaced by chemicals, even if a slice of this precious mushroom rests at the bottom of the bottle.
But, above all, there is another issue that Patterson already explained in his article and that the international organization for the defense of consumers FoodWatch also denounces. It is that the aroma of 2.4-dimethylpentane and its companions is replacing the truffle as a favorite among consumersthat when they smell an authentic truffle they feel disappointed.
Thus, the average consumer is getting used to this coarse and powerful smell, similar to gas, and rejects the complex nuances of leather and oxides of the black truffle or those of the white truffle to methane and garlic.
beware of labeling
The best way to distinguish whether we are dealing with authentic truffle oil or 2,4-dimethylpentane is to look at the label, since the law does not allow images of truffles to be displayed on it if there really aren’t anynor mention “truffle aroma” in the composition if it does not come from 95% real truffles.
In any case we can read “aroma, summer truffle”, separating the words by a comma, playing tricks, which borders on illegality, because the word “aroma” undoubtedly refers to chemical additives, although testimonially the bottle contains a truffle lick.
In any case, and as long as the dealer does not commit fraudBoth the price, starting at approximately 30 euros per 100 ml, as well as the images of truffles on the label and the express mention of “truffle aroma” in the composition, reveal an oil truly made with natural truffles.
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