Fun with Fondue & Traditional Cheese Fondue

I’m not sure what the food fashion police have to say about fondue this winter. Is it reborn and hip again? Fondue is one of those dishes which always seems to be in the midst of a comeback. Of course it was all the rage back in the ‘70’s. From New England’s snowy peaks to Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers, a party was not a party without a gently bubbling pot of cheese and/or chocolate fondue.fondue_pot

When my sister tied the knot, she received four, maybe five fondue pots. Or at least a few more than she thought she needed or would ever need. The extra pots were consigned to the purgatory of my parents’ attic. Years later when I set up my first apartment, fondue was already passé but I magnanimously adopted one. I was moving to Vermont and fondue seemed like a natural. I think I might have served it on one or two cold winter nights but I can’t swear to it.

But fondue is not a fad in Switzerland. It doesn’t come and go on the whim of some fancy food fashionista. It’s been a favorite on Swiss tables since the late 1600’s. That’s when a hungry alpine cow-herder made supper of some stale bread and a bit of melted cheese on a cold and blustery winter night.

One of the first things l learned when I moved to Switzerland was that the Swiss take their fondue very seriously. As you would expect in a country where “everything which is not required, is forbidden,” certain rules apply when eating fondue.

1. Never eat fondue in the summer. Relaxing around a pot of piping hot cheese is a lovely way to spend a winter evening but steamy business in the middle of summer. Every year the Swiss celebrate the first cold, rainy days of autumn with a fondue.

2. Only drink white wine, preferably Fendant from the Valais region of Switzerland. For children or anyone who does not drink wine, hot tea is okay but never beer, water, juice or heaven forbid Coca-Cola. The practical explanation or urban myth for this rule is that these drinks will cause the cheese to come together into a hard, cold ball in the pit of your stomach. Every Swiss person knows someone who knows someone who knows someone whose uncle died from drinking a cold beer after a fondue.

3. It’s okay to skip dessert, but if you do indulge, fruit with a splash of kirsch is the traditional after-fondue sweet. While the idea of an all-fondue evening might sound intriguing, chocolate fondue is decidedly un-Swiss. Chocolate fondue was invented in New York about fifty years ago, albeit by a Swiss-born chef. Obviously, too much time in Manhattan led him astray. Ice cream is strictly frowned upon; see rule number 2.

Tourists, especially American tourists, are notorious for breaking these rules. Not many cafés serve fondue during the summer. If by chance, you venture by one that does; you’re sure to find a jolly group of tourists enjoying a fondue in the hot sunshine. More likely than not, they’ll be washing it down with a beer or icy cold Coke. Strangely enough, in spite of this terrible lapse, the sidewalks in front of these establishments are not littered with tourists writhing in pain and near death.

Now is the perfect time to venture into the attic and retrieve that old fondue pot. A lazy evening with friends around a pot of bubbling cheese and a bottle of wine is an excellent way to end a long day on the slopes.

Bon appétit!

Traditional Cheese Fondue
Fondue is the perfect après-ski meal. A mix of cheeses is best; Gruyere and Emmental are most common and easiest to find. If you can track some down, try adding Fribourg Vacherine or a combination of Tilsit and Appenzell. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1 clove garlic, halved
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds cheese
Try: 1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 Emmental,
1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 Fribourg Vacherin or
1/2 Gruyere, 1/4 Tilsit and 1/4 Appenzell
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 ounce Kirsch
Freshly ground pepper
Crusty country bread cut or torn into bite sized pieces

Special equipment: a fondue pot, stand for the pot, alcohol burner and long handled fondue forks

Grate the cheeses, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss to combine.
fondue_01
Rub the fondue pot with the garlic. Drop both halves in the bottom of the pot, add the wine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cheese in handfuls and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Stir in the kirsch and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Set the fondue pot on its stand over a low flame. Pierce a piece of bread with a fondue fork and swirl it through the cheese.

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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

When was the last time you had a fondue? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013

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11 thoughts on “Fun with Fondue & Traditional Cheese Fondue

  1. – Well, actually, the Swiss love to eat fondue outdoors in summer….UP IN THE MOUNTAINS! Raclette is a big hit too! But not in town!!
    – You might like to know that the EPFL (the Swiss MIT) has just come out with a study that tea is actually better for you than that white wine….digesting wise.
    – The trend over here is leaning towards people drinking red wine with fondue!
    – Personnally, being a big fan of garlic, I actually press my garlic into the pan after the rub-down job!
    – and last, but definitely not least : a tip from the Swissies…. Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda just befor serving! The whole thing will foam up and your fondue will be that somuch lighter! ( is that possible?)
    So just waiting for you to get yourself back over here for some of the real McCoy!

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    • Oh! And forgot…the other thing we Swiss do…is instead of tossing the cornstarch with the grated cheese : dilute it in a tiny liqueur glass with cold water. Pour it into the melted cheese mixture almost at the end….that’s what brings the whole thing together and covers up the mistakes!

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        • You’re right ! Absolutely…. With the kirch! Solange always makes the fondue for us up here in the mountains! The last time I made fondue myself was last year when I cooked for 18 people at camp! We were stirring 3 pots!!
          Oh! And funny anecdote !…. I love Draw Something and fondue always appears in the list of “scary things” !

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    • Suzanne – And they say the Swiss are inflexible! I did have fondue at Zermatt once in early September. I will try the bic soda next time – thanks for the tip. Not sure when I will be back to see you. Skiing was wonderful yesterday but I sometimes miss Les Portes du Soleil. Snow is on the way tomorrow and I have just enough cheese for a mini fondue for two! Take care – Susan

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      • We’re having a pretty fantastic season snow wise here too, but it is very cold…much colder than I remember ever. Last year Theo ventured out at -18*C! Enjoy your mini fondue! We miss you!

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        • S. – My first winter in CH was very cold. Nice harbor and others froze over in January. Then in February, we had that big snow down into town. Lausanne was plowed out by noon but Geneva was closed for a week. Coming from New England it all seemed normal to me. -18C was cold but nothing new and NH was always plowed out within hours while Boston and New York took days! It’s snowing again today … 6-12 inches in the forecast. Stay warm! – S.

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  2. I did my first fondue this year–I liked it! I definitely didn’t know these rules, but I didn’t break any of them. Thanks for the education.
    I also did a Bagna Cuda with the fondue pot in January. Oh, I am so behind in the blogging!

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    • Emily – Thanks for stopping by. I love fondue but I only eat it after skiing. It’s so filling that I need a day of exercise in the cold. So the rules suit me fine. Bagna Cuda is also wonderful. Hope you are having fun with your retro cookbook project. Love your flapper look – Susan

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