What is Taleggio?
Taleggio, known by regional locals as talegg, is a delightful semi-soft cheese, offering an earthy flavour with subtle sweetness and a robust aroma. taleggio has been certified as one of the most famous Italian cheeses in the world for its rich taste imparted from its ten-month (minimum) process of maturation.
Made from cow’s milk, taleggio’s rind obtains its characteristic smell for two reasons: firstly, because five different types of specialised mould are used and periodically washed off. This is also what ultimately gives this cheese its distinctive outer orangey-rose hue. Secondly the cheese is submerged in brine for either 12–14 days or periodically drizzled with olive oil, giving it an intense aroma but unique flavour: rich but mellow and reminiscent of hazelnuts, almonds, black pepper, and eucalyptus. Taleggio also comes in softer varieties, called "dolce", which have a different rind.
Where is it made?
Trace the tranquil and winding Taleggio River down its impressive valley (Val Taleggio), and you're sure to see a few of the area's natural wonders, including the birthplace of the eponymously named taleggio cheese. This fertile valley sits in Lombardy region of northern Italy and is, by definition, an agricultural region, familiar with the hard work of tending to grapes and cattle. Taleggio has been produced in this region, (in the province of Bergamo) since the 9th century, although some people do claim the existence of this cheese goes as far back as the Roman presence in these mountains.
As well as the ever-changing landscape - from mountain lakes and fields of yellow rapeseed to clusters of olive trees and endless woodland, this part of the region is home to a cultural tradition that takes cheesemaking to new heights!
Quite literally, taleggio was historically made up in the mountains by herdsman who needed a use for their surplus of milk before moving the cattle to graze elsewhere at the beginning and end of the summer months. They found that the cheese ripened well in the alpine caves surrounding the mountain towns of the Bergamo area and could then be used as currency at local markets. As better roads were built into these secluded areas, the demand for this deliciously soft-centred cheese increased and it began to be made in other lower areas of the valley, closer to the grazing animals. It is said, however, that the taleggio made in the mountain caves remains the richest of them all.
What does it pair with?
Due to taleggio’s rich, buttery taste it is extremely versatile and can be paired with a multitude of ingredients. For example, it’s creamy texture lends itself perfectly to being smeared on toast or seeded crackers with a generous slathering of chutney or fruity conserve such as fig, morello cherry or redcurrant – try adding a handful of crushed, toasted hazelnuts, it’s a game changer! It is also equally delicious when melted, particularly on pizza in tandem with balsamic caramelised onions. Buonissimo!
Taleggio even works as an indulgently cheesy addition to accompany roasted root vegetables or perfectly seasoned white meat. You can’t go wrong!
La Cantina (wine cellar)
Much like its food pairing, taleggio can be eaten alongside both white and red wines. If hosting a cheese and wine evening, a generous hunk of taleggio with fresh grapes or sliced pear alongside a full-bodied red wine such as Barolo or Beaujolais is a sure winner.
Equally, if opting for something like a fresh leek & taleggio tart or on crackers with spicy onion chutney, a crisp chardonnay or slightly sweet Gewürztraminer white wine is also a heavenly combination.
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