I first came across Taleggio cheese when I was making regular visits to Brescia, in Lombardy, but its production is much more widespread than that. Being a DOP cheese its produced in a very specific area of Italy using very specific production methods, but the area, spread across the north of Italy, includes parts of Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto.
How to use Taleggio
Taleggio is a creamy, soft, washed-rind cheese – and, due to the brining method of production it has a pungent smell, a tangy taste, and the characteristic orangey rind (which you can eat). It’s a cows’ cheese with a 48% fat content, enjoyable to eat as is, but also excellent for cooking (in risotto or polenta for example) as it melts superbly. Try it with Garlicky Mushrooms on Puff Pastry Beds. Or in a quiche with chard, peas, and asparagus.
It goes well too, grated over a salad of bitter leaves. The saltiness goes well at the end of a meal with some fruits.
Origin and history
A cheese like Taleggio is mentioned by Romans (Cicero, Cato, Pliny) and there is clear evidence that its production dates back at least to the 10th century, while some documents written in the 13th century offer some evidence that the cheesemakers in the Val Taleggio were seeking to differentiate their product by giving it the name of its place of origin. Production was limited to this valley until the late nineteenth century.
How it’s made
Taleggio is formed initially into curds using bacteria and calves’ rennet. After two separations the whey is removed and the cheese is formed into moulds and washed in sea water once a week. Maturation takes place over about two months.
How to keep it
Keep it wrapped in a damp cloth, or at least something which will allow it to breathe. If you wrap it in plastic the air won’t be able to reach it, and it will start to ferment!
What to drink with it
Try it with a hearty Barolo, or any local nebbiolo wine.
If you can’t find Taleggio, try the slightly stronger flavoured Fontina.
For more information go to the website of the Taleggio Consortium.