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Cheese of the Week: Franklin’s Teleme

Cheese of the Week: Franklin’s Teleme

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Cheese of the Week is a weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook. What follows is based on an interview with Hook.

Want more? Click here for the Cheese of the Week Slideshow.

At first glance, the oozy, rectangular block of cheese called Teleme might look a lot like Taleggio, but don’t get them confused: whereas Taleggio is dense, Teleme, which was one of, if not the, first cheeses to be produced in the San Francisco Bay Area, is almost supernaturally light and fudgy, with bright flavors of citrus and fresh milk when young, becoming more robust, earthy, and mushroomy as it ages. It’s one of the best cheeses produced on American soil, and Franklin’s Teleme is made by a third-generation cheesemaker whose family has been producing this same exact cheese for 98 years.

Based out of San Luis Obispo, Calif., Franklin Peluso’s Mid-Coast Cheese Company was founded in 2005, but the cheese is still made in the old-fashioned way. "Franklin is a true gentleman," said Hook. "He’s a super-humble food artisan who puts all his passion and energy into his cheese."

Franklin hand-crafts all the cheese himself, using milk from Holstein and Jersey cows, and each cheese gets a dusting of rice flour to keep the pH level of the rind low enough to prevent it from getting moldy. It’s then aged for a minimum of 20 days, and is ready to ship when the rind is firm and the interior is soft and almost dough-like. The rind is edible when it’s young, but as the cheese ages Hook recommends cutting it off.

Hook recommends pairing the cheese with a California red, in particular the Rhone-style 2011 California Crimson. It’s big, fruity, mineral-rich, and slightly tannic, and pairs well with the Teleme’s earthiness.

Cheese of the Week: Anton’s Red Love and Franklin’s Washed-Rind Teleme

I’m on vacation, but I am going to write about two cheeses before I head off to the Russian River.* Both cheeses are pink and stinky and two of my new favorites.

Anton’s Red Love is a polarizing cheese. Not because of its luscious butterfat, notice-me stink, and balance of flavor. No, almost everyone I sampled it to loved the cheese. It’s polarizing because of its label. Don’t believe me, check it out:

This is right up in my top three disturbing cheese labels. Number one is still the child porn Taleggio but I think Red Love moves to number two, supplanting the emaciated sheep about to commit cannibalism on a Manchego. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love this label.** But about half the cheese workers at the store looked at me like I was crazy to use this label (which I laminated) as a display. That the cheese feeder is the cheesemakers daughter (supposedly) makes it even more awesome in my mind. Get your heads out of the gutter, people! It’s sweet. Just because Folsom St. is this weekend doesn’t mean the label promotes feeder-fetishes.

If you want an awesome stinky cheese, seek out Anton’s Red Love.

In other stinky news, Franklin Peluso sent us a square of the washed rind Teleme he’s been working on for awhile. I may have written this before, but the contrast between multi-generation cheesemakers Sid Cook (Carr Valley Cheese) and Franklin Peluso is amazing. In the time it took to write this entry, Sid Cook – who already makes about 150 cheeses*** — has probably already invented, tested and marketed two new cheeses. Franklin, however, made only his second kind of Teleme ever a few years ago…. He added pepper to it! This is his third cheese**** and it is long-anticipated by Bay Area cheese lovers.

Now, you and me, we can admit that a washed-rind Teleme is a Taleggio, right? Even if name-control-wise we can’t call it that. I mean geez, I’ve been selling Teleme as “Taleggio without the washed rind” for a decade and a half now….

This sample cheese was awesome. It was falling apart a little. But that was because the ooze factor was so high. Like Teleme, this is not a strong cheese, despite the stink, but a rich slightly pungent one that is super hard to stop eating.

I brought our remaining sample to the Bay Area Cheesemonger party last week where it was well-received for sure. (Thanks for the party Christine Bayuga!)

Can’t wait to get it on the shelf.

*We accidently booked a place on the Russian River for Folsom Street Fair weekend. Will it be deserted or packed with people fleeing the city?
**Not to be confused with I Love My Label
***Exaggeration for effect.
**** Well, he did make a short-lived cow/sheep version with Rinconada Dairy, but that was just the regular Teleme with mixed milk.
****Oh what the heck, here’s a close up!

******This entry written while listening to the amazing John Cooper Clarke

The Other Grilled Cheese

The typical grilled cheese sandwich never sees a grill. A panini press, maybe. Or a cast-iron skillet. Or a griddle. But for that flame-kissed taste, you need the grill.

This weekend, celebrate the coming summer solstice with real grilled cheese. I like to use Teleme—an unparalleled melter—but I’ve listed other good choices below. Protect the cheese with a leaf wrap. Grape leaves are still young and tender in June, so that’s an option for some. If you don’t live in wine country, use chard leaves.

I place the hot, oozy package on grilled toast, bruschetta style. So it’s knife-and-fork food at my house, although you could cut the toasts in half before serving and dispense with the cutlery. Either way, it’s an easy summer appetizer to enjoy with the evening’s first glass of wine.

Grilled Teleme in Chard Leaves

From California by Janet Fletcher (Time-Life Books). Good alternatives to Franklin’s Teleme include mozzarella, Fontina Val d’Aosta, Raclette, fresh chèvre or jack.

  • 4 large, unblemished chard leaves
  • 6 ounces Franklin’s Teleme, chilled, in 4 equal slices
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Dried oregano
  • 4 slices Pugliese or other country-style loaf, about ½ inch thick and 4 inches long
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Carefully cut away the white rib from each chard leaf, keeping each leaf in one piece. Put the leaves in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 2 minutes. Drain in a sieve and cool quickly with cold running water. Gently squeeze to remove excess moisture. Lay the chard leaves flat in a single layer on a kitchen towel and pat dry. Reshape them so you can’t see the slit.

Put a slice of cheese in the center of each leaf. Sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes and a pinch of oregano. Fold the bottom of each chard leaf over the cheese, fold in the sides, then roll up to form a neat package that completely encloses the cheese.

Grill the bread until toasted on both sides. Immediately rub one side with a garlic half and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Brush the chard packets all over with olive oil and season with salt, then place directly over the coals or flame. Grill for 1 minute, then turn and grill until the cheese feels very soft to the touch, about 1 minute longer. Set a package on top of each toast and serve immediately.

1 of 10

French Cantal

&ldquoCantal is one of France&rsquos most beloved cheeses, and if you don&rsquot know it, you should,&rdquo says Jenkins. Made from cow&rsquos milk in the Auvergne region, its flavors range from sweet and fresh to peppery, depending on age. It also carries an official AOC designation, or Appellation d&rsquoOrigine Contrôlée, meaning its characteristics are prized and distinct to its region.

Available online from, $20/lb.

Teleme's production returns to California

Maine's loss is California's gain. Franklin Peluso, whose grandfather Giovanni developed the rice flour-coated Teleme cheese, has returned to California after nine months of making and marketing Teleme on the East Coast. Peluso's wife and children could not bear Maine's winter weather, so the family repatriated last August and Peluso has resumed Teleme production in San Luis Obispo.

Before moving to Maine, Peluso sold his Peluso Cheese Company in Los Banos (Merced County), so he no longer has rights to the family name. The new proprietors are still making Peluso Teleme, but it doesn't measure up to the cheese I remember from the presale days.

Working out of the dairy plant at California Polytechnic State University, Peluso makes his new Teleme with the same recipe he has always used. The pasteurized cow's milk is cultured and coagulated, then the curd is cut and lightly cooked to firm it. After draining, the curds are washed to remove whey and minimize acid development. Then they are salted, molded and pressed overnight. The 6-pound squares are coated in rice flour after about four days of drying, then they are wrapped in wax-coated paper and refrigerated for about a week before shipping.

The 2-week-old cheese is soft and mild, but it will become softer still and more complex in flavor over the next 3 to 4 weeks as enzymes break down the fats and proteins. I like it at every stage. When young, it is supple, moist and buttery, with a sour cream smell and a tangy, lactic finish. As it matures, it becomes more runny and silky, with mushroom aromas. The cheese is about 2 inches thick, off-white internally with the signature surface dusting of rice flour. Packing it in paper instead of an airtight vacuum wrap (as the Los Banos Teleme usually is) allows the cheese to continue to develop and change, but it also invites the formation of harmless surface mold. If you see mold, simply scrape it away.

Spring Pizzas for Easy Entertaining

Celebrate spring's arrival with these creative and colorful combinations of sauce, cheese and toppings.

Related To:

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jackie Alpers ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

1 Pizza Dough, 8 Pies

Pizza is the perfect food for entertaining &mdash a crowd-pleaser with unlimited options for sauce, cheese and toppings. We explored some creative combinations of ingredients that celebrate spring. All of these pizzas started with the same basic dough recipe, which we expanded on, inspired by our imagination and our love of the season.

Spring Seafood Pizza

Roll out pizza dough, then brush with melted garlic butter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and thyme. Top with king crab, shrimp, fresh peas, fresh basil and a soft, mild cheese like Franklin's Teleme.

6+ Cheese Pizza

For a super-cheesy pizza, top rolled-out dough with tomato sauce, grated Parmesan, a four-cheese shredded Italian blend, Ciliegine mozzarella balls, smoked mozzarella, crumbled blue cheese and torn fresh basil leaves.

Teleme is Northern California's other indigenous cheese (the first is Monterey Jack). A certain mystery clings to its origins, the way fog hugs the Bolinas shoreline. Some say 19th century cheese makers were attempting to make feta ― if so, they failed. Spectacularly. At the hands of 30-year cheese maker Franklin Peluso (whose grandfather is said to have developed it), Teleme has a bright tang and delicately elastic texture as satisfying to eat as softened shortbread dough. "It has a milkiness and a creaminess in the same bite," says San Francisco cheese writer Laura Werlin. "It has the best texture of any cheese I've ever had in my life." That's saying something.

Werlin also digs the thin crust dusted with rice flour, something she says provides textural contrast with Teleme's creamy center. "The closest thing to it are washed rind cheeses," she says, "but those have different flavors and textures." But here's the thing about Teleme: You only want to buy Franklin's handmade cheese, made in Los Banos in the Central Valley with pasteurized milk from cows in the dairy plant at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Look for pieces cut from a rectangular slab the size of a sheet cake, wrapped in paper. Avoid Peluso's Teleme ― Franklin sold the name a few years ago, before briefly moving to Maine. Peluso Teleme comes in smaller Cryovac packaging ― Werlin calls it an industrial product, essentially, without the flavor or texture of Franklin's cheese.

Wine and cheese pairing: Franklin’s Teleme and sauvignon blanc

Franklin’s Teleme – a tasty-soft, delicious, semi-soft, one-of-a-kind cheese, and a California original! Handmade by third generation cheesemaker Franklin Peluso in San Luis Obispo along the central coast at Cal-Poly, this cow’s milk cheese is dusted with rice flour which helps develop the rind and gives it an interesting day-glow green/yellow tint. When young, Teleme is a subtle cheese, with mineral notes and a slight chalkiness, great with not-so-sweet sauvignon blanc. But as it ages its becomes more full-flavored. The Peluso family has been making this one cheese for over 100 years and they are the living history of cheesemaking in California. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Franklin’s father and it’s easy to see where Franklin gets his passion for making this unique, super high-quality cheese.

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15. Old-Fashioned Beef Stew for 60 // Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower liked to cook simple dishes, and beef stew was a specialty. According to Cannon, “although he had help from the staff in preparing the vegetables, he was there in the kitchen in his favored apron, stirring, tasting, seasoning” when he made this dish. (He also had a pared down version of the recipe that he prepared for smaller get-togethers.)

Beef cut for stew
Beef stock
Small Irish potatoes
Small carrots
White onions
Fresh tomatoes
Bouquet garni
Salt, pepper

“Stew 20 pounds beef in 3 gallons beef stock until partially tender, about 2½ hours. Season and add 8 pounds peeled potatoes, 6 bunches scraped carrots, 5 pounds peeled onions, 15 quartered tomatoes, and a bouquet garni (bay leaf, parsley, garlic, thyme tied in a cheesecloth bag). When vegetables are tender, strain off 2 gallons of stock and thicken with enough flour to make a medium-thick sauce. Remove cheesecloth bag, add thickened gravy to the meat and vegetables, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook for another half hour.”