I'm pleased to add one of my favorites to the cheese case this week. Taleggio is a wash-rind cheese hailing exclusively from the Lombardy region in northern Italy. The origins of this soft cheese can be traced back to the 10th century as a way to utilize excess cows milk at the end of fall and winter. Peasants, local to Val Taleggio, would age the cheese in the caves that lined the valley. The process of "washing" the cheese with sea water weekly would hinder bacteria growth and develop a distinctive orange rind and soft creamy interior. The caves that were used held temperature and humidity remarkably well, making them natural ripening chambers.
Now days, the process is much more scientific, but has been standardized and Taleggio was given it's D.O.P protected status in 1996. Each block of Taleggio will be marked with circled 'T' imprints on the rind to designate authenticity in accordance to its origin in Lombardy and method of creation.
The first thing you notice when opening a block of Taleggio is the unique orange rind. Then, shortly after, the aroma. "Pungent" or "funky" are the words I most commonly hear, but the amazing thing about this cheese it that the aroma does not carry over to the taste. Instead, the taste is mild and fruity but holds up well to stronger flavors like bacon or red wine.
I suggest warming Taleggio slightly in the oven and serving it with crackers or toast and your favorite jam (I use our sweet and spicy pepper jam). It also makes a heavenly addition to risottos and grilled cheese. Stop by for a sample and more pairing suggestions.