Winter brings with it very few touches of warmth but this part of the year is bookmarked for many as prime time to don the gumboots and head to the outdoors in pursuit of the truffle.
Down on the culinary-rich Mornington Peninsula, Red Hill Truffles are introducing folk every weekend into the distinct aromas and taste of truffle.
Jenny McAuley, a Red Hill native has been hosting hunt and tasting tours for over 10 years alongside her faithful nine-year-old English springer spaniel, Thomas. The experienced duo will lead you around a hunt of the property digging at the base of Oak and Hazelnut Trees that are scattered across the farm, uncovering the aromatic flavour-filled truffles and determining their readiness for market.
The black truffle hunting and tastings tours consist of 10-15 people giving you the chance to get your hands dirty alongside Jenny and her rescue dog Thomas. After the hunt, Jenny will show you how to wash and prepare the truffles over a choice of two-course lunch, or a truffle degustation from Michelin trained chef Romuald Oudeyer, formerly of Mo Vida Aqui. You’ll even have the option to purchase the truffles found on your venture to take home along with a slew of tried and tested recipes from Jenny herself.
Jenny’s tours might be small but her legacy and truffle operation runs deep into the culinary-dense network of the Mornington Peninsula. Each season she supplies truffles to some of the best restaurants and wineries in the region including Point Leo Estate, Tedesca, Jackalope, Montalto, as well as farm gates like Torello Farm and Red Hill Cellar & Pantry.
“It’s wonderful to be able to work with all the different restaurants and wineries across the Mornington Peninsula and get to see them use the truffles that are produced here,” said McAuley.
McAuley first planted her trees in hope of growing truffles back in 2003 as part of her retirement plan, qlthough now she’s established quite the CV in the space. It's taken a lot of hard work, and it’s an incredibly difficult process to reach the point where trees consistently grow quality truffle.
“It’s not easy, it involves a lot of hard work as it’s all manual labour. It's 100% harvesting by hand.”
Luckily, the Mornington Peninsula is home to some of the most fertile land in the state and it has long been a hotbed for top-notch produce. McAuley described how the combination of the region's climate and the volcanic-rich soil has been the catalyst for the many great seasons of truffle.
McAuley has plenty on her plate with her truffles. When asked about what she’s got in the pipeline for the future she let slip that she’s working closely with local makers working on truffle-related collaborations such as gin, beer, cheese, and chocolate truffle infusions. To book in your own expedition to Jenny’s truffle oasis head over here.
If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation on the Mornington Peninsula, come right this way.
Image credit: Chris Homsey