Do you remember the time when fondue was all the rage?? It must have been in the dim and distant 70’s and 80’s when fondue seemed to be so sophisticated and entertaining! And then somehow fondue fell from favour, and all those fondue sets and special plates were put at the back of some cupboard and more or less forgotten about. That was pretty much everywhere except in Switzerland, where cheese fondue is very much part of the national identity!!
I’ve just had friends from Switzerland staying in Saint-Chinian, and we had a cheese fondue one evening. It brought back many happy memories, so I thought you might enjoy reading about it. In the French language, the word fundu means melted, so that is where cheese fondue got its name from.
For those of you who have never encountered fondue or a fondue set, there is a stand with a small spirit burner, on which is set the fondue pot. There is an almost infinite variation of possible combinations as to shape and size, and these days electric fondue sets are also available!
Here are the ingredients we used for our cheese fondue:
We had to have Swiss gruyere and Swiss Emmental cheeses – the French versions of these cheeses were not an option for my Swiss friends!! Luckily, the cheeses were easily found in the area! We also used a dry white wine (Riesling in this case), Kirsch eau de vie, and corn starch.
To accompany the fondue, we had carrots, broccoli, small new potatoes, apples, pears, and bread – all for dipping into the melted cheese. And we also had a mixed salad to accompany the fondue.
The cheese was cut into manageable chunks and then grated on the big holes of a box grater.
The carrots and the broccoli were lightly steamed, the potatoes boiled until just cooked, and the bread, apples and pears cut into bite-size chunks.
The stand for the fondue pot was set up in the centre of the table. The stand would usually sit on a metal tray to protect the table, but my metal tray appears to have gone astray – perhaps it is at the back of some cupboard, somewhere?? The ceramic dish was a good substitute.
Once it reached boiling point, the cheese was added a handful at a time, whilst constantly stirring.
The cheese soon started to melt – to begin with it looked a bit lumpy!
Before too long it started to come together into a smooth and creamy cheese and wine stew!
At that point a mixture of corn starch and kirsch eau de vie (mixed until there were no lumps) was added to homogenise it further, and to add flavour. After another couple of minutes the mixture was ready to be transferred to the fondue pot, which had been warmed with boiling water (otherwise the cheese would have cooled too much). Note: fondue is normally cooked in the pot that it is served in. Unfortunately, my fondue pot was not compatible with the cooker, so the fondue had to be transferred.
Below is the fondue in the pot, ready to be brought to the table. The top was sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg!
We were all set to go!!
Everyone put a selection of goodies on their plates, and then we were ready to dip and enjoy the fondue!
It was absolutely delicious!! Thank you to Thekla, Jean and Ueli for sharing this with me!!
Here’s the printable recipe:
400 g Swiss Emmental cheese
200 g Swiss gruyere cheese (Greyezer)
400 ml dry white wine
1 – 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 teasp corn starch
2 tbsp kirsch eau de vie
freshly grated nutmeg
For dipping, prepare all or some of the following:
French bread (preferably day old), cut into bite-size cubes, each cube with some crust
Small new potatoes, carrots, broccoli, steamed/cooked until just tender
Apples and pears, etc. cut into bite-size pieces
Grate the cheese. Mix the corn starch and the kirsch until there are no lumps. Heat wine and garlic in your fondue pot and when at boiling point add cheese a handful at a time whilst stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. When the cheese is completely melted and the mixture starts to bubble add the corn starch and kirsch mixture, stir well for a couple of minutes, then bring to the table and put on your fondue stand.
When dipping, make sure that you keep the cheese mixture moving!
Note: If possible, use a heat diffuser mat under your fondue pot once it is on the stand. That way the cheese mixture is less likely to scorch at the bottom of the pot.
Winter is a perfect time for eating cheese fondue – what are you waiting for??