Teleme: American Cheese Society Best of Show 1992

Franklin's Teleme - Best of Show - Best of Show 1992There is something comforting and exciting about an ACS award winner that is not just an American version of a European cheese, but is actually American through and through.

Such was the case when Peluso’s Teleme won Best in Show in 1992 when the American Cheese Society conference was last held in Madison. This “American Original” cheese took home the top prize when the Society visited the Midwest for the first time. The conference returns to Madison this summer to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Peluso Teleme, however is not a Midwest cheese. It actually has its origins with the “happy cows” of California where Giovanni Peluso first created the cheese in Los Banos, outside of San Francisco. The cheesemaker set out to make Stracchino, a molded cheese from his home country of Italy. However, his attempts were so far from what he wanted, the cheese took on a life and name of its own. Such was born Teleme.

It is interesting to note that while Giovanni Peluso was certainly influenced by his Italian ancestors, cheese in California overall has its roots in the cheese of Spain via Mexico. Cheesemaking was first brought to California by Father Junipero Serra in 1796 when the Spanish Missions popped up along the California coast. California cheeses have roots in a slightly different tradition than the largely British, Dutch, Italian and Swiss dairies which first sprang up along the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Franklin's Teleme - Best of Show - Best of Show 1992Peluso Teleme is made with pasteurized cow’s milk and is aged only two weeks before being sold. When it is wrapped in paper, it can continue to age for up to two more weeks and the flavor will continue to develop. The soft, spreadable cheese has a rind dusted with rice flour and a mild, yeasty taste that is reminiscent of crème fraîche.

Today, the Peluso family still makes cheese in California. After selling the Peluso dairy to try his hand at cheesemaking in Maine, Franklin Peluso quickly returned to his native left coast.

Using the name Franklin’s Teleme, the third generation cheesemaker continues to use the family recipe and has even expanded on the Teleme line with a recently introduced washed rind version. This Teleme has full flavors of nuts and yeast and is saltier than its dusted-rind brethren.

Peluso’s Teleme is an accessible and delicious cheese that can pair nicely with a number of flavors including salty olives, crusty bread, and crunchy apples. A very young Teleme can go smoothly with a simple white wine, but as Teleme ages it may demand something a bit fuller like a California Pinot Noir.

Teleme can still be purchased from Peluso Cheese, but it is Franklin’s Teleme that truly carries on the tradition of the unique and flavorful California cheese.