Originating in Switzerland, the true fondue (from the French fondre - to melt) is a combination of hard and semi-hard cheeses mixed together with wine and melted in a single handed pan known as a caquelon. Into this are dipped lumps of bread, spiked onto forks. Here is the classic recipe for Swiss cheese fondue, sometimes known as "Fondue Neuchâtel".
300 grams - Gruyère cheese
100 grams - Emmental Cheese
1 - Clove garlic
2 - Teaspoons cornflour
200 ml - dry white wine
1 - squeeze of lemon juice
1- shot of Kirsch
Salt and pepper (or grated nutmeg or Raclette spice) to taste
After removing and discarding any rind, grate the cheeses and mix them together. Cut the bread into 30 mm cubes and serve in a basket. Do not use very fresh bread as it falls apart. Cut the garlic in half and rub it round the inside of the fondue pot, then discard. Put the pot on your cooking stove add the wine, lemon juice and cornflour. On a low heat cook for a few minutes, then add the cheeses, salt and pepper. Stir continuously until the cheese is all melted and gently bubbling. If the mix seems too thin, add more cornflower, if too thick add more wine. Finally add the shot of Kirsch and stir in.
When complete place the pot (with care) on its stand in the centre of the table. The pot is kept hot by a spirit burner in the base of the stand.
Each diner puts the cubes of bread onto a fork, dips them into the cheese mix and then eats them, taking care not to burn your mouth.
A good starter to precede the fondue is a plate of Bündnerfleisch, the air-dried beef of the Grisons canton, or the similar Viande Séchée from Gruyère.
In addition to bread, cooked vegetables (usually sautéd in butter) can also dipped into the cheese fondue. These are some suggestions.
Baby chestnut mushrooms
Breaded garlic mushrooms
White wines are best with Cheese fondues. The Swiss drink Fendant or Johannisberg. Alsace Gewürztraminer also goes well, as does Pinot Grigio.
No fondue set but want to try a fondue? Follow the general recipe as above. Cut the garlic in half and rub it round the inside of a suitable microwave safe bowl or pot, then discard. Add the wine, lemon juice and cornflour. Microwave 1 minute. Add half the grated cheeses. Microwave 2 minutes. Stir in remaining cheese, salt and pepper. Microwave 5 minutes stirring twice during cooking. Add the shot of Kirsch and stir in. Microwave 1 minute. Stand for three minutes before serving. Times are for a 750 watt microwave oven on full power. Adjust times for other ovens.
Alternative Cheese Recipes
Other authentic Swiss fondues are:-
Fondue Fine Herbs
As above standard recipe but with the mixed chopped herbs, chives, chervil, tarragon and parsley (or try oregano and sage) added to the mixture.
Fondue Valais (or Fondue Walliser Art)
As above standard recipe but with equal quantities of Gruyère and Vacherin cheeses (or can be Gruyère, Appenzeller and Raclette cheese). Add a couple of skinned and chopped tomatoes and tomato purée to the mixture and serve with new potatoes.
As above standard recipe but using Bündner Burgkäse together with a softer cheese such as Tilsiter or Appenzeller, and with porcini mushrooms added to the mixture.
As above standard recipe but using Vacherin cheese.
As above standard recipe but using Appenzeller cheese.
As above standard recipe but using Reblochon cheese.
Well alpine French actually. As above standard recipe but using Beaufort, the main Savoy cheese, with an equal quantity of Reblochon (sometimes French Emmental, Gruyère, Comté or Abondance) and with grated nutmeg added to the mixture.
Fondue du Nord
Also French but from the north. As above standard recipe but using Maroilles, Tome de Cambrai and Emmental cheeses with grated nutmeg added to the mixture and somethimes beer instead of wine.
Translated means "half and half". The Swiss use this to describe their cheese mixtures. As above standard recipe but using half Gruyère and half Vacherin or Emmental cheeses.
Three cheeses. As above standard recipe but with equal quantities of Gruyère, Emmental and Appenzeller cheeses. Appenzeller, a 700 year old recipe, is called the spicy Swiss cheese and is added to fondues to sharpen their flavour.
Fondue Forestière, Fondue des Bois or Fondue Jäger Art
As above standard recipe but with mushrooms added. We have also seen it with a small amount of truffle.
As above standard recipe but with small pieces of fried bacon added.
As above standard recipe but with equal quantities of Lenk Kräuterkäse, Gruyère and Fribourg Vacherin cheeses. Kräuterkäse herb cheese is a speciality of the Simmental valley, and is also used in soup as well as for this local fondue recipe.
As above standard recipe but with grapes and small pieces of fried bacon added.
It is worth noting that some supermarkets do kits of ready grated cheese mixes for fondues, but we prefer to prepare our own.
The residue baked onto the bottom of the pot after the fondue is finished is known as la religuese or la courte. It can be scraped off and eaten as a tasty snack.
In passing we should mention the other Swiss cheese dish, Raclette (from the French racler to scrape). A large cheese (often Goms or Bagnes) is cut in half and then heated until it melts, when the melted cheese is scraped off onto the plate and served with a jacket potato and pickles.
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