Taleggio is a soft and washed rind cheese, produced in Lombardy, with an interesting, pungent and aromatic taste, variable depending on seasoning time. On table, alone, or with other ingredients, it gives personality to our dishes.
History and curiosities
Taleggio has old origins and an interesting story. We are in tenth century and the area of production is the homonymous Val Taleggio, near Bergamo. The more effective evidence dates back to the modern age, but some documents of thirteenth century speaks about this cheese. They concern manufacturers in the valley, which needed to distinguish their product from those from different areas.
In fact, Taleggio was called before “stracchino”, from the Lombard term “stracch”, tired. It is a quite generic word, part of the ancient peasant’s vocabulary. Cheese was usually seasoned into the caves or “casere” in the valley. The Protected Designation of Origin is active starting from 1996.
Production and Regulation
Taleggio is a soft and washed-rind cheese made in Lombardy, with the Protected Designation of Origin with the Regulation CE 1107/96.
Production and seasoning of the original Taleggio DOP occur in specific territories. Belong to this geographical area the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Lecco, Lodi, Milano, Cremona, Como and Pavia, in Lombardy. Taleggio should also present a mark on the rind, to certify its quality and origin, with three T and the number of the factory of origin. The mark with four circles fills the entire surface of the product and so it is partially evident even if we buy just one little piece of cheese. Each partner receive from Consortium an identification number that allows tracking cheese’s production.
For what concerns the production, the raw material of Taleggio is whole cow’s milk, with starter bacteria and rennet. Indeed, it is necessary to use rennet from calf and never from genetically modified microorganisms. As usually, after the coagulation there is the curd’s break, that occurs in two moments. After that, the product can be put in specific molds. Ripening happens in rooms with a slightly high humidity for 18 hours. Stewing is very important, because during this step, curd becomes cheese and whey is ejected. The origin mark is placed on the flat surface of cheese during this phase and it represents a way to recognize cheese’s type once on the market.
Cheese wheels go on to salting process, dry or in brine. Therefore, there is ripening, that occurs in specific rooms with a humidity of 90% and a temperature of 2-6°C. In this period, it is very important to sponge and turn wheels, in order to maintain the right moisture of rind and to avoid the creation of mold. Generally wheels stand on some wooden boards, in locals with features similar to those present in original natural caves. Ripening can go on also for a month.
Cheese wheels obtained during these passages are quadrangular parallelepipeds with a flat surface and lateral sides 20 cm height. Each wheel weighs 2 kg.
Taste and characteristics
Taleggio is a soft cheese with ripening of 25-50 days. The texture is softer in the part beneath rind, because ripening occurs from the surface to the internal part, so we call it centripetal. For this reason, even the external part is edible, so we can eat it as an integral part of cheese.
The scent of this particular cheese is aromatic, quite intense, while taste is rather sweet or slightly spicy in mature wheels. Taleggio has a dark rind, while the internal part is soft and straw-yellow near rind, white inside.
Taleggio is a table cheese perfect for eating it alone, for example at the end of the meal, or as an ingredient for many recipes. Serve it at room temperature to exalt its scent. Taleggio is particularly good for dishes as polenta, but also with mustard or honey, such as chestnut honey, or with marmalade. Even fresh fruit represents a good combination for this soft and salty cheese. They are great contrasts, with a pinch of creativity.
Risotto with Taleggio and squash is a very pleasant recipe. Serve it also with Prosciutto di San Daniele and Altamura’s bread, or into fresh salads cut in cubes. For what concerns wine combinations, it is better to accompany Taleggio with a red, fruity and cool wine. Generally, the most indicated wines are: Franciacorta Rosso, Oltrepò Pavese Pinot Nero, Piave Merlot and Rosso Piceno.