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Taleggio, a delicious ally of mountain cuisine

Sweet, slightly aromatic, sometimes with a truffle aftertaste. The flavours, aromas and texture make Taleggio one of Italy’s best-loved, best-known, and most recognisable cheeses.

Taleggio is one of the fourteen PDOs in Lombardy, shared with Veneto and Piedmont: in fact, in addition to 9 provinces in Lombardy, it can also be produced in the Veneto province of Treviso and in the Piedmont provinces of Novara and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola.

History and traditions

However, it is undeniable that its origins link it to the Bergamo area, as revealed by the name of this cheese, which is precisely that of one of the valleys in the province of Bergamo. Apparently, it was already being produced in the 10th century and documents from the 13th century mention it among the dairy products that were used as trade goods.

At the time, however, its name was not what we know today. Like all square-shaped cheeses, it was simply called ‘stracchino’ or, in the Lombard dialect, ‘strachin’. A term derived from ‘strach’, meaning ‘tired’, as tired were the cows whose last milk, that of the evening milking, was used.

The name Taleggio, which we use today, instead has much more recent origins and stems from the need of local cheesemakers to distinguish their product from all other stracchino cheeses, choosing a specific name instead of one that indicates an entire category. And what better name if not that of Val Taleggio?

We are in the early 1900s, far from the existence of PDOs but aware of the value of a unique product linked to its territory. Recognition arrived in 1996. 

Initially, production was only in the mountains, in the valleys, but gradually moved to the plains. 

Production and characteristics

Taleggio PDO is among the best known and also most recognisable cheeses, both for its aromatic and taste characteristics and for its shape and colour. The cheese has retained the shape of the ancient ‘stracchino’ and its thin, soft, pinkish rind is its calling card. 

And speaking of the rind: yes, it can be eaten as it does not undergo any kind of treatment other than salting (which can be dry or in brine). This means that the colouring is not due to treatments but to the action of the microflora!

The ripening phase is fundamental: it must not be shorter than 35 days, and takes place in rooms with 80% humidity that recreate the conditions of traditional caves.

Taleggio DOP and recipes 

The characteristic soft texture of Taleggio makes it the perfect ingredient for polenta (with which it also shares its mountain origins) but it is perfect with risottos, as well with savoury pies and bruschettas and used with vegetables.

Those who want to enjoy it on its own, or perhaps as part of a cheese plateau, taken out of the fridge in advance so it can be soft, can accompany it with a good wine with bubbles to counteract the fatness, preferably a red with a tannic note. Perfect choices are Bonarda, dry Lambrusco, Gutturnio, Cabernet and Pinot Nero.

 

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