There’s no meal that’s more magical during the holidays than sharing a warm, creamy, oozy fondue with its rich aromas and deep, lasting flavors. It takes the chill off any cold night.
Friends and families gather and spend memorable times eating this Old World meal. Fondue has officially been made since the 18th century in Switzerland. But long before that, it became a staple on the menus at Alpine households. It was a way for people to utilize cheeses that had dried out during winter storage. The Swiss are so practical, they never throw away hard dry cheese; they melt it.
Anything so delicious will grow in popularity and cross borders and oceans. I learned to love fondue as a bride. My first fondue pot was a wedding gift in 1967; it was electric and, of course, was yellow. I still have it
Updated electric fondue pots are now Teflon-coated, stainless steel and easily cleaned. Every house should have a fondue pot; I bet there’s one lurking in the back of your cabinet, or steal your mother’s (if she hasn’t gone back to using it). Fondue pots are hot.
Every year during the Murphys Christmas Open House, my daughter Elissa and I make a big batch of fondue with cheeses from Switzerland, and serve it to the guests who stop into Lavender Ridge Vineyard. They gratefully accept it with outstretched cold fingers; its warmth and taste are always a hit.
Talking with people during that three-hour event, I paid attention to their questions, and here are my tips for making a wonderful fondue.
Let’s start with the
Classic Swiss Fondue recipe:
- ½ pound each Emmental and Gruyere cheese, shredded by hand or in a food processor
- 1-2 cups dry white wine (my favorites are Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc)
- 2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch ( I like to use Wondra)
- 3 minced cloves of garlic (or you can smear the inside of the fondue pot with crushed garlic)
Heat the wine. Toss the cheese with the flour and garlic, then add it to the hot wine until it’s melted.
Now let’s look at what I’ll call my fon-dos and fon-don’ts.
A great fondue takes time and constant attention.
Start with the right cheeses: Swiss Alpines aged 10 months or more. Aged cheeses create the creamy texture; young ones will be gummy and stringy.
Grate your cheeses cold and mix the two cheeses together in a bowl.
Toss the cheeses with flour or cornstarch before adding them to the wine.
Bring the grated cheese mix to room temperature before you put it into the fondue pot.
Toss in small handfuls of the grated cheese and stir to melt. Add more gradually.
Stir slowly in a figure-eight pattern with a wooden spoon (I like the feel of it).
Have a nice glass of white wine to sip as you do all the above.
French baguettes, sliced thinly, work best for scooping up and absorbing the melted cheese.
Serve with steamed vegetables, too; cauliflower and broccoli love cheese.
If a crust, called “the nun,” forms on the bottom of the pot, it’s a tasty special treat to eat.
For a special touch, use other Alpines like Comte French Gruyere, Montasio (an Italian Alpine), Swiss Raclette, Austrian Bergkase or Bishop’s Peak from Paso Robles. Aged Goudas work well, but not cheddars. Stay with aged A
Don’t rush. A perfect fondue melds together in about a half hour.
Don’t walk away from the pot; it needs constant stirring.
Don’t overheat the fondue. There should be a slight simmer and it should not ever bubble. Turn down the heat if that happens, but keep stirring.
Don’t dump. Small handfuls of cheese and small additions of wine allow the fondue to melt smoothly. Easy does it.
Don’t use young cheeses. It is the flavors of aged cheeses that create the magical flavor you want. I know Alpines are more expensive, but they are so worth the extra few dollars to make your fabulous fondue.
Judy Creighton presents Second Sunday Cheese Classes at the Lavender Ridge Vineyard Rhone Room in Murphys for $20. Reserve at email@example.com.