taleggio

Each Taleggio cheese weighs between 1.7-2.2 kg, depending on the production technique. Each cheese is shaped like a square slab 18-20 cm in length and width and 4-7 cm in depth.
The rind is thin, soft and is naturally pink in colour with characteristic light sage-coloured mould (green-grey).



The body of the cheese has a uniform and solid consistency. It is softer just under the rind and, once the ageing process is completed, it's quite crumbly in the middle.
The cheese varies from white to straw-coloured and occasionally contains tiny holes.
The flavour is sweet, slightly sour and a vaguely aromatic, sometimes with a hint of truffle. It has a characteristic aroma.
Taleggio is a natural, living cheese, in fact, the ageing process continues right up to when it is eaten.
For this reason, Taleggio must be carefully conserved in order to maintain its pleasant flavour, aroma and consistency.

Taleggio can be kept safely in the fridge for weeks, between 0°C and 6°C, depending on how mature it is. It is best kept wrapped in a damp cloth, which ensures that the rind stays soft.

Taleggio must be kept in the same wrapping in which it was sold, or at least in a breathable covering. Therefore it must never be wrapped in plastic as this stops the air getting to it and causes fermentation.

TALEGGIO: NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Source: INRAN (Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione) Amount per 100g
Energy Kcal 315
Energy kJ 1319
Edible part % 100
Water (g) 51,8
Protein (g) 19
Carbohydrate (g) 0,9
Of which:  
Soluble sugars (g) 0,9
Starch (g) 0
Fats (g) 26,2
Of which:  
Saturated 16,8
Monounsaturated 8,47
Polyunsaturated 0,93
Cholesterol (mg) 90
Total fibre (mg) 0
Sodium (mg) 873
Potassium (mg) 89
Iron (mg) 0,1
Calcium (mg) 433
Phosphorus (mg) 328
Vit A (mcg) 482
Vit C (mg) 0
Vit E (mg) 0,62
Vit B1 thiamin (mg) 0
Vit B2 riboflavin (mg) 0,22
Niacin (mg) 0

Taleggio is produced and aged in Lombardy (around Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Milano and Pavia), in Piedmont (around Novara) and in Veneto (around Treviso). The milk used to make it must all come from dairies in these areas which undergo very specific controls.

In the cheese factory the milk is kept in refrigerated cisterns. Full fat cows' milk is used to make Taleggio, either pasteurised or unpasteurised. Milk is pasteurised by heating it in order to destroy all potentially harmful pathogens and reduce the quantity of non-harmful micro-flora. The milk can then be safely kept at 4°C for a few days. In order to get the milk to coagulate, it is reheated to a temperature between 32-35 °C and a mix of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus is added to acidify the milk (and ferment the lactose with lactic acid), along with a added aromas. No genetically modified micro-organisms are allowed.

The base ingredient used to transform milk into cheese is rennet (which is extracted from the stomachs of milk-fed calves). Rennet coagulates the milk and separates it into two parts: the curd, which is has a consistent texture and so is easy to process, and whey, which is liquid. Taleggio is made using rennet from calves only: the use of rennet made from genetically modified micro-organisms is strictly forbidden.

The time left between the start of the coagulation process and the moment when the curd is cut is fundamental and depends on the type of cheese being made. For harder cheeses, the curd should be cut into small pieces after 2-5 minutes, whereas for softer cheeses, the curd is cut into larger pieces after 10-15 minutes.

Cutting the curd into smaller pieces increases exposed surface area which allows more whey to drain out and results in a firmer cheese. Softer cheeses are made using chunks of curd between the size of a walnut and an orange, whereas semi-firm cheeses are made using pieces the size of a bean or pea and hard cheeses using pieces no larger than a grain of rice.
This process of cutting the curd can be carried out either by hand or using a machine.

Taleggio is left to rest for 10-25 minutes, depending on the weather and type of raw ingredients. The curd is cut twice: the first time into large chunks, which are then left for a further 10-15 minutes. This allows the curd to expel more whey and improves the texture of the cheese. The second time round the curd is cut into pieces the size of hazelnuts.

Once this process is complete, the curd is placed evenly in specially made moulds with sides 18-20 cm long. It is here that the whey is drained away (a yellowy liquid that comes from the milk). These moulds are placed on special tray tables with raised sides which are covered with mats made from either plastic or natural materials. The tables are slightly angled in order to help the whey drain away.

The cooking process is one of the most important and delicate stages. The curds and whey are shaped into cheese, followed by a process of acidification and the last of the whey is drained away. This phase, during which the cheese is turned several times, can take from a minimum of 8 hours to a maximum of 16 hours, at a temperature of 22-25°C.

For technical reasons, during the cooking phase the cheese is branded to prove its genuine origin. While the cheese is being turned, a brand made from food-grade plastic is placed one side of each piece of Taleggio.

Every cheese producer applies its consortium number on the lower left-hand corner of each cheese, in order to identify where each one was made. The salting process is another fundamental stage and in fact, the salt actually causes even more whey to drain away and helps the rind to develop. It also gives the cheese flavour (flavour spreads throughout the cheese from the surface) and it protects the external part of the cheese from harmful micro-organisms, allowing only useful ones to develop.

In artisan cheese making, the salting process is carried out 'dry', which means that the salt is spread over the surface and sides of the cheeses.

In industrial cheese making, the cheeses are often submerged in a salt solution at around 10°C. In this case, the cheeses stay in the solution for 8-12 hours, during which time they are turned several times.
Taleggio cheese has a long history, dating back to before the 10th century. The sale and exchange of Taleggio and other cheeses is documented in some 13th century historical documents. The cheese originates and gets its name from Val Taleggio, outside Bergamo.

The people of Val Taleggio had a milk surplus and so needed to find a way to make use of it. They began making cheese which, once it had been aged in 'caves', or huts in the valley, could be exchanged for other products or even sold directly.
As the consumption of Taleggio grew, production spread across the Padana plains where a number of cheese producers sprung up. Most of these were small- to medium-sized businesses, which managed to balance traditional techniques with the technological innovations which came along during the thousand years of the cheese's history.

Taleggio used to be produced seasonally, but is now made all year round. It's not only made in the mountainous area where it originates from, but also in many artisan dairies and larger cheese-making factories across the lowlands too.
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