As I complete my 14 day sojourn into washed rind cheese, I find myself reflecting on what I have learned thus far. Washed rind cheeses are not the benign brie-like discs I thought them to me. Oh no, rather, beneath that orange-ish washed rind often lurks a true delicious wild monster. Just because you can spread it, doesn’t mean it’s soft-on the palate.
Before I begin, another letter from my auntie Paulette, still moored in Indonesia. She writes of the small picture of cheese at the bottom of each post:
“the cheese appears to be an iceberg floating in a very cold very bluish ocean….unmoored and headed it knows not where, a chunk of dairy flotsam. I feel empathy for the poor cheese and imagine it on a nice wooden cutting board so it could have a boat to sail on. Perhaps a toothpick, with a miniature paper flag sticking out of it to act as a mini sail. Might you consider the possible addition of an apple slice, how about a mini tomato or grape for a wee bit of color ? I JUST FEEL SO LONELY WHEN i see it unmoored in the artic like that.”
In a small gesture of fromagological good faith I have included a tomato in today’s picture. However, this is out of love for you, dear auntie, and your existential angst. The cheese itself is happy floating on its sea of blue-why? Because it’s warming up, and getting ready to be eaten by me-thus fulfilling its life long mandate.
I digress. Today’s cheese, Taleggio, is a pasteurized cow cheese from Italy. My first-of many-Italian cheeses, it rounds out my group of washed rind cheese. This is potentially one of the oldest soft cheeses, and it is made only in the autumn and winter when the cows are tired (perplexing!). It is washed once a week with a seawater sponge in order to prevent mold and imparting a salty seawater crust on the rind of the cheese. Another cave cheese, Taleggio has been around for almost 1000 years and was originally matured in caves, although often is matured-these days-in factories.
My little slice of Taleggio is emitting odours here on my desk-mild, foot-like odours, as though it’s just gone for a 10 km run, but was clean before that. It is pale yellow inside with a slightly darker rind. It’s not sticky looking and appears relatively benign.
The first thing I notice about Taleggio is the texture, it’s really great, soft, yet tensile. It would spread beautifully on some crusty bread, and I suspect would melt nicely too. It’s quite salty, the result of salt water sponge baths the nascent cheese had in those caves (lucky little cheese!). It’s actually a little fruity, and quite earthy, not at all pungent…but, back to the salt, this is a really salty cheese, almost overwhelmingly salty.
I rate Taleggio a 3 out of 5, which includes the deduction of one point due to the saltiness which the poor little cheese couldn’t help.