Taleggio is a smelly, wash-rind cheese from Northern Italy. It is named after Val Teleggio, a valley in the Province of Bergamo in the region of Lombardy. Taleggio has a square shape, with a thin, orange or pink rind, and soft interior. It is made from cows milk that is either raw or pasteurized.
Though Taleggio has a strong, pungent aroma, its taste is mild and tangy with a moist-feeling interior. It is a rich cheese, with at least 48% milk fat. Taleggio is aged at least 35 days. As it ages further, its flavor becomes sharper, its interior becomes yellower, and its texture becomes less firm.
The rind is stamped with the letter T. There may be some mold on the rind, or the cheese may be coated with a wax coating.
Taleggio has been around for quite some time, since at least the 11th century and perhaps even before. It is part of the Stracchino family of cheeses. Traditionally it was made in autumn and winter, when herds of cows were moved from the Alps down to warmer pastures. These cattle were "tired", or stracche in the Lombardo dialect. (See entries on Stracchino and Gorgonzola.) Originally the cheese was aged in caves in the valley where it originated, but in modern times it is usually aged in cellars.
For hundreds of years Taleggio was called Stracchino, but it's name was changed to differentiate it from other cheeses made nearby of the same name.
Though usually made from unpasteurized milk, there are pasteurized milk varieties. U.S. law prohibits import of cheese from unpasteurized milk if the cheese is less than 60 days old, so Taleggio cheese in the U.S. is from milk that has been pasteurized.
Taleggio is a PDO cheese, meaning that it's name is protected in Europe. It can only be made in the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Milan, Pavia, Treviso and Novara. It has been a PDO cheese since 1996, though it had some protected status in Italy earlier than that.
The Consorzio Tutela Taleggio is the governing body in charge of protecting the brand and quality of Taleggio cheese. (Note, while their site has an English version, it is not translated very well.)
Where to buy
Taleggio is becoming more common and easy to find outside of Italy, but still your best bet is a good cheese shop or a specialty grocery store.
Taleggio can be found online at amazon.com.