BeanScene Magazine

Tasty taleggio

From the December 2015 issue.
Tasty taleggio

Native to Lombardy and traditionally aged in caves, Taleggio is a soft and pungent washed rind cheese with ancient origins.

The story of Taleggio is one that is believed to predate the 10th century, although the name as we know it came about much later.

This type of cheese was originally known as Stracchino, derived from the word ‘stracch’, which in the Lombardian dialect means tired. And it was named as such because it was made from the milk of ‘tired’ cows after their long journey from the mountains to the plains. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that cheese makers – wanting to differentiate their precious cheese from other forms of Stracchino produced in nearby areas – began using the term Taleggio to describe this particular variety.

Taleggio originated in the Taleggio Valley, in the Bergamo province of Lombardy. Its production eventually spread to many other areas of Lombardy, and it is now made within the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Milan and Pavia; along with specific areas of the neighbouring Piedmont and Veneto regions.

In Northern Italy, Taleggio is highly prized, so much so it was awarded DOP – Protected Designation of Origin – status in 1996, meaning all aspects of its production are governed by law in order to protect and preserve its traditions.

For cheese to be marketed and sold as Taleggio, it must be produced in specified zones and the milk must come from a defined area of Northern Italy.

Traditional Taleggio is in a square slab no more than 7cm thick. Beneath the cheese’s thin rind is a sweet and aromatic centre. When aged correctly, the rind develops a slightly pinkish/orange hue, with traces of greyish-green mould.

Taleggio is produced using full fat cow’s milk. After pasteurisation, rennet is added to the milk and it is reheated so it coagulates. The only form of rennet allowed in the cheese’s production is that derived from calves.

The resultant curd, which becomes the cheese, is broken up twice, with a rest period in between. It is then placed into moulds to expel any excess whey. The delicate cooking process follows, taking anywhere between eight to 16 hours. Next, the cheese is salted, before it is ready to be aged.

Although some producers still age Taleggio in caves, it is more commonly aged on wooden boards in controlled chambers that replicate cave conditions – cold and very humid. During ageing, cheese slabs need to be turned over and sponged with a salt water solution each week. Keeping the rind damp encourages a mould to develop which provides the characteristic pinkish colour. Taleggio must be aged for a minimum of 35 days.

Taleggio DOP cheese can be recognised by its trademark of four distinct circles that cover the surface of the rind. Three circles contain the letter ‘T’ while the remaining one features a number identifying the individual cheese producer. Taleggio DOP is protected and promoted by the Consorzio Tutela Taleggio, which was established in 1979.

Taleggio makes a great table cheese and also melts well. It has a creamy texture and fruity character and is best eaten at room temperature. Rather than removing the rind completely, simply scrape the surface lightly.

Try it on a piece of crusty bread or as part of a pasta, risotto or pizza dish.

Australian importers
Deni International Foods, Formaggi Ocello, Itaus Imports, Quality Centre Food Services and Visco Fine Foods

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