“One Frenchman said to me, “Cheese fondues don’t have to have a good cook. Good cheese and wine will do.” — Nathalie Dupree
Fondue is Switzerland’s national dish. It has become an international friendship dish and symbol of goodwill. The Swiss will rally around a fondue pot at the drop of a hat, whether at home, in a restaurant or in an out-of-the-way location when people feel the need to converge. Communal dining strengthens friendships and establishes new bonds.
The word fondue stems from the French verb fondre, which means, “to melt.” The creamy cheese dish has an enigmatic past shrouded in legend. There are several theories about its origin; each may contain a grain of truth.
Through Homer’s Iliad, it is known that cheese, wine and barley flour were heated together in the 9th century B.C. However, many Swiss say it began as a winter dish of necessity when cowherds and shepherds were isolated in the snow-covered Alps. As provisions dwindled, leftover cheese was melted in wine or milk and scooped up with crusty bread. This provident cooking method turned stale ingredients into an appealing, nourishing dish. Sitting at the heart of Europe, Switzerland’s lush alpine pastures are naturally suited to dairy farming and cheese production. What better way to use all of that hearty Swiss mountain cheese than to create something as delicious as Fondue au Fromage?
Swiss Fondue Comes to America
Early in the 1930s, the Swiss Cheese Union promoted the consumption of cheese in Switzerland. The campaign was extended to the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., where Americans dined on cheese fondue. House and Garden immediately wrote an article about the Swiss exhibit and provided a fondue recipe. “We are afraid this is not a party dish,” they wrote.
Mrs. Mildred O. Knopf helped change this notion in 1950 when she wrote The Perfect Hostess Cookbook (Alfred A Knopf, Inc.). It included “a series of authentic and distinguished cheese recipes of Switzerland” she had discovered at the World’s Fair in 1940. The Swiss Cheese Union granted permission for their use.
Cheese fondue appeared again during the 1964 New York World’s Fair at the Alpine restaurant, Le Chalet. Fondue Bourguignonne was also on the menu. The Swiss specialty features tender beef cubes skewered on fondue forks and cooked in a pot of hot oil. Flavorful dipping sauces are served on the side. This fondue style is thought to have originated in France during the Middle Ages, possibly by descendants of the Germanic Burgundians.
A similar style of dining is the hot pot, enjoyed throughout Asia. It is a satisfying communal meal, especially when the weather turns cool. Instead of cheese or oil, the fondue pot holds a flavorful broth for cooking meats, poultry and seafood. Broths can range from tongue numbing hot to herbal mild. Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Hot Pot is satisfying and fun for entertaining. Serve it with pickled vegetables, Asian beer and a tropical fruit platter. The dish captures all the flavors of Pho (“your own bowl”), the ubiquitous North Vietnamese soup/salad in a bowl.
Dessert fondues will always be synonymous with celebration! They are a wonderful conversational centerpiece and the “life of the party!” When families and friends participate in the dipping process, the fun and laughter brings big smiles, especially from the kids.
Everyone’s favorite fondue flavor is chocolate, which can range from sweet milk chocolate to unsweetened chocolate, depending on your taste. You can choose one kind, or blend 2 to 3. Chocolate fondue is inherently rich — a little goes a long way — so include fresh seasonal fruits with any additional foods for dipping. Cookies, cake dippers, meringues and other treats can be conveniently prepared days in advance for a sweet finish.
“Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures.” — M.F.K. Fisher
Fondue au Fromage
Who doesn’t love the flavor-notes of warm, melted cheese, especially when produced at high elevation in the mountainous regions of the Alps. Switzerland has many types of fondues made with mountain cheeses. Cow’s milk cheese is favored, because, in addition to being delicious, it melts the best.
The proportions of the cheeses can be adjusted but keep in mind you need at least 5 ounces per person. Serve as an appetizer or as a main course with a platter of cured meats and a green salad. Offer beer, hard cider or wine to drink — preferably the one added to the fondue. My local Swiss friends sip hot mint tea and avoid ice-cold drinks, thought to congeal the cheese into indigestible lumps in the stomach.
The Swiss may first dip their bread cubes into Kirsch (cherry eau-de-vie), then into the fondue. Kirsch is optional, but a little can increase the flavor complexity of young cheeses. Pear William or Mirabelle Plum eaux de vie are nice too. To explore additional fondue cheeses, refer to A Mountain of Cheeses, although the list is by no means exhaustive.
12 ounces Swiss Gruyère, shredded
8 ounces Swiss Emmentaler
1 tablespoon cornstarch or potato starch
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1 1/2 to 2 cups dry white wine, like Swiss Neuchâtel (Refer to Fondue Tips)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground white or black pepper
Pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg
Toss cheeses with cornstarch in a large bowl; set aside. Gather remaining ingredients. Rub inside of a sturdy, medium pan with garlic; drop into pan. Add about 1 1/4 cups wine and lemon juice; heat over medium low heat until very hot. Discard garlic. Add cheese in handfuls. Stir mixture gently after each addition in a “figure eight” pattern. Add pepper and nutmeg. Gently simmer and stir fondue 4 to 5 minutes more until it bubbles gently around the edge and becomes smooth. If too thick, warm remaining wine and slowly blend in as needed. Pour into a warm fondue pot placed over a lighted burner. Adjust to keep fondue barely bubbling. Serve with fondue forks and 3 or 4 of your favorite Foods for Dipping. Use bread cubes to stir fondue as it is eaten. Serves 4.
Foods for Dipping
- Crusty bread cubes: baguette, ciabatta, rye, pretzel bread, pumpernickel, olive bread or other rustic loaf
- Cubes of polish sausage or ham
- Boiled baby potatoes
- Cherry tomatoes, blanched cauliflower or broccoli florets
- Barely steamed plump radishes
- Cornichon pickles
Curry & Apple Fondue
Prepare 1 recipe Fondue au Fromage, but substitute 12 ounces Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta and 8 ounces Swiss Emmentaler with 1 1/4 cups wine. Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons prepared curry powder, like McCormick’s brand. If available, stir in 1/3 cup apple chutney and 2 tablespoons Calvados or applejack brandy instead of Kirsch. Serve with crisp, tart apple slices, crusty bread cubes and sliced kielbasa sausages.
Fondue de Franche-Comté
Prepare 1 recipe Fondue au Fromage, but substitute 12 ounces French Comté and 8 ounces French Beaufort cheese.
Residents living on both sides of the Franco/Swiss border claim fondue as their own dish. Here is a French version. Prepare 1 recipe Fondue au Fromage, but substitute 7 ounces each of French Comté, French Beaufort and Swiss Gruyère. Nutty, soft French Reblochon can be used instead of Gruyère.
Welsh Cheddar Rabbit
The British Welsh rabbit (or rarebit) resembles a savory Cheddar fondue poured over toast. It is eaten with fork and knife. No bunny rabbits are harmed in making this dish! Rabbit is the authentic name, which evolved into rarebit. A popular tavern dish in the 18th century, it’s perfect for a modern brunch or supper. Accompaniments might include a fried egg, sautéed mushrooms, crispy bacon, tomato chutney or gherkin pickles. Spoon it over potatoes, vegetables, grits or pasta. Some cooks fortify ale-based rabbits with cream or whisk in 1 or 2 egg yolks.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 green onion, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 cup light ale, heavy cream or half and half
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry English mustard
1 pound quality British or domestic Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 large diagonal slices of rustic hearth bread, cut in half
Preheat broiler. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook onion and flour 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup ale, Worcestershire and mustard. Add cheese in handfuls, gently stirring after each addition until slightly bubbly around the edges and smooth. You can thin sauce with additional ale or cream. Keep warm. In a broiler pan, toast bread lightly on one side; spoon cheese sauce over top. Broil 1 minute or until bubbly and golden. Serves 4.
Omit broiling step; serve fondue over toast, sprinkled with paprika.
Blushing Bunny: Stir in 1 chopped, seeded, peeled ripe tomato and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil.
Mexican Rabbit: Stir in 2 tablespoons chunky salsa, 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin and 2 tablespoons minced cilantro.
Use a blend of mild and sharp Cheddar.
Sometimes it’s fun to reinvent the wheel. Bring one (8-ounce or larger) round of Brie or Camembert to room temperature. Select a filling: softened, mashed triple-cream blue cheese and walnuts or homemade cranberry fruit chutney with orange liqueur. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place cheese on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a small knife, trim off a portion of the top, nearly to the edge and 1/4-inch deep. Remove top and cover cavity with the filling selected. Heat 15 to 20 minutes until soft and melting. Transfer to a small platter; scoop out melted cheese to eat with sliced toasted baguette. Serves 6 to 8.
Tomato Basil & Goat Cheese Fondue
Fondue refers to melted cheese, but it has other meanings too. It can refer to a classic French cooking term for finely chopped vegetables cooked to a pulp. The mixture is used as a seasoning component in many dishes. It also applies to foods with a cooked sauce. In this dish, the cheese is covered with a tangy tomato sauce then heated in the oven. It’s a great appetizer or special lunch with garlicky toast and wine.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (15-ounce) diced plum tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste
1 (6-8 ounce) log young goat cheese, like South Carolina Split Creek chèvre
Croistini (recipe below)
In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, pepper and garlic; cook 3 or 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, herbs, chili flakes, salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add vinegar, to taste. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour a little of the sauce into an attractive heatproof baking dish. Top with the cheese. Spoon remaining sauce over the top. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until hot. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve warm with the Croistini. Serves 4 to 6.
To make Croistini, diagonally cut a crusty baguette into thin slices then brush lightly with olive oil. Toast lightly under the broiler. Rub all the toasted sides using 2 or 3 mashed cloves of garlic, as needed. Serve with fondue.
Vietnamese Beef and Rice Noodle Hot Pot
Pho is a popular Vietnamese street food evolved from the Mongolian hot pot. Boiling-hot, fragrant, spiced broth is poured into large bowls with chewy rice noodles and tissue-thin raw beef. Each diner customizes his bowl with fresh herbs, bean sprouts and flavorful sauces. In this version, the diners cook individual portions of beef in a fondue pot, to suit personal tastes. Noodles are serious business in Vietnam. The smallest serving of Pho noodles seems large by American portions. Use Japanese noodle bowls or donburi bowls meant for one-bowl rice meals. They hold 3 1/2 to 4 cups and are available in Asian shops or department stores.
Asian Beef Stock (see below)
Salt, to taste
Brandied Hoisin Sauce (see below)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef tenderloin, sirloin or flank steak
1 red onion, peeled, halved, thin sliced
Vietnamese Table Salad (recipe below)
1 (1 pound) package 1/4-inch thick, dried, flat rice noodles, soaked in a large bowl of water 45 minutes
Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam) or other quality fish sauce, to taste
Prepare Asian Beef Stock a day or two ahead. Prepare Brandied Hoisin Sauce; refrigerate. A few hours before serving, partially freeze meat, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick-slices. Arrange beef on 3 plates in overlapping slices. Garnish with onion. Prepare Vietnamese Table Salad.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drain noodles; add to boiling water and cook about 1 minute. Drain and rinse with tepid water. Gently press out water. Arrange noodles in 6 deep soup bowls; set aside. Carry plates of meat, salad platters and a soup ladle to the table. Provide a small plate, 2 small sauce bowls, soup spoon, fondue fork (if needed) and pair of chopsticks for each diner.
In the kitchen, bring the broth to a boil with a few drops of fish sauce, if desired. Pour 3 1/2 cups of the broth into a metal or enameled fondue pot. Carry fondue pot to the table carefully; place over a lit burner adjusted to the highest setting. Ladle 1 1/2 cups hot broth into each bowl of noodles; place on the table. Keep remaining broth warm. Each diner can add salad ingredients to their noodles. Invite diners to use chopsticks or a fondue fork to dip 1 or 2 slices meat and onion into the hot broth. Cook about 30 seconds; add to the bowl of noodles and broth. Dip meat into bowls of Brandied Hoisin Sauce before eating it. Use chopsticks in one hand to grasp the noodles and a spoon in the other hand to help with the lift. Cook remaining meat, replenishing fondue pot with stock as needed. When the meat is eaten, ladle rich broth into the soup bowls; season to taste. Cooked white rice can be served with the soup, if desired.
Asian Beef Stock
Use this flavorful stock for Asian-style, broth-based fondues, hot pots and soups.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 to 4 pounds beef shank or oxtails
1 leek, split lengthwise, each leaf separated, rinsed, chopped
2 large diagonal slices fresh ginger, smashed
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 large garlic cloves, mashed
Tender inner portion of 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped, or strips of peel from 1 lemon
4 quarts water
6 sprigs cilantro
1 teaspoon Sichuan or regular peppercorns
In a stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add shanks; cook until browned. Pour off excess fat. Add leek, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, garlic and lemongrass. Stir and cook until aromatic, 2 or 3 minutes. Add water, cilantro and peppercorns. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Skim foam from top. Allow to simmer uncovered for 3 hours. Add more water, if necessary, to keep water level just above ingredients. Use a slotted spoon to remove bones. Pour stock through a strainer into a large bowl. Press ingredients to extract liquid. Quickly cool to room temperature then refrigerate up to 3 days. Scrape off top layer of fat. Bring stock back to a boil; season to taste. Stock can be frozen.
Brandied Hoisin Sauce
Serve dipping sauce with meats cooked in a hot pot or fondue pot.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese chili bean sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brandy
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté shallot and garlic until softened but not dark. Stir in hoisin, bean sauce and vinegar. Stir in brandy. Cool to room temperature. Store in refrigerator.
Vietnamese Table Salad
This is the centerpiece of a Vietnamese meal. The artfully arranged salad platters could also include garlic chives, shiso leaves or fine threads of fresh ginger.
1 large bunch cilantro leaves, rinsed, torn in sprigs
1 packed cup basil leaves, torn if large
1 cup fresh small mint leaves
1 pound fresh bean sprouts, rinsed, tails removed, if desired
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 European cucumber, seeded, cut in julienne strips
4 red Thai chilies, chopped, or Siracha hot chili sauce, to taste
Prepare and arrange ingredients on 1 or 2 plates to pass at the table. Put chilies into a small bowl. Plates can be tightly covered and refrigerated 4 hours before serving. Portion chilies into tiny condiment bowls at the table. Serves 5 to 6.
Beef tenderloin is the top choice of meat, requiring no marinating. Serve with tiny roasted potatoes and an Alpine green salad with sliced mushrooms, watercress, tomato and vinaigrette. Select at least two dipping sauce recipes or pick one favorite and add one of your own. A friend who was a noted Swiss pastry chef in Columbia shared the first two recipes with me. He served both when he made this dish. They are delicious!
Parsley and Cognac Mayonnaise (recipe below)
Bull’s Eye Sauce (recipe below)
Horseradish and Tarragon Cream (recipe below)
2 to 2 1/2 pounds trimmed beef tenderloin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
Remove meat from refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking. Prepare dipping sauces; portion into small serving bowls. For each diner, arrange a portion of the beef on a small plate. Place the sauces and meat on the table. Add individual dinner plates, fondue forks, cutlery and side dishes. In the kitchen, pour the oil into heavy metal or enameled cast iron fondue pot about 1/2 full, but no more. Place on the stove; heat until the temperature reaches 375 degrees. Carry fondue pot with hot pads carefully to the table and place it over a lit burner adjusted to the highest setting. Diners should use fondue forks to spear and cook the raw beef to the desired degree of doneness. Use a regular fork for dipping meat into the sauces and eating. Makes 5 to 6 servings.
Parsley and Cognac Mayonnaise
To make 1 1/2 cups quality light or regular calorie mayonnaise, stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy, to taste. Stir in 1 minced garlic clove and 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley or basil. Serve at once or chill until serving time.
Bull’s Eye Sauce
To make 1 1/2 cups quality light or regular calorie mayonnaise, stir in 1/2 cup Bull’s-eye Sauce and hot pepper sauce, to taste.
Horseradish and Tarragon Cream Sauce
1 cup quality light or regular calorie mayonnaise
1/2 light or regular calorie sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or dill (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl, blend mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice and tarragon until smooth. In a mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff. Fold into the horseradish mixture just until blended. Use at once or cover and chill overnight. Spoon the sauce into small bowls for dipping. Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
The recipes are from Susan Fuller Slack’s cookbook, Fondues & Hot Pots (HP Books).
Classic Swiss Chocolate Fondue
A savvy marketing ploy to promote Swiss products in the U.S. was the impetus for the creation of chocolate fondue. Chef Konrad Egli at New York’s defunct Chalet Suisse restaurant served it first on July 4, 1964. He used the legendary Toblerone Swiss Chocolate with Honey & Almond Nougat, still available in the classic, triangular shape that resembles the Matterhorn. I prefer the dark bittersweet version of this chocolate. You can substitute 1 or 2 tablespoons Cabernet Sauvignon or Madeira for the liqueur.
1 cup heavy cream, more if needed
4 (3.52 ounce) bars Toblerone Swiss Dark (Bittersweet) Chocolate with Honey & Almond Nougat, chopped
2 tablespoons liqueur (kirsch, Grand Mariner or Amaretto), if desired
Heat cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Remove pan from heat; add chocolate. Let stand 4 minutes; stir until smooth. Blend in liqueur. Scrape fondue into a small ceramic fondue pot; place over a tea light or votive candle to keep warm. Don’t use a metal pot, which can cause scorching. Serve with fondue forks and your favorite Fall Foods for Dipping. Serves 5 to 6 servings.
Chocolate Raspberry Bon Bon Fondue
Tastes like a box of chocolates! Prepare Raspberry Coulis: in a blender, process 1 (10-ounce) package frozen, thawed raspberries in syrup with 1 tablespoon sugar until smooth. With a spatula, push puree through a fine strainer into a medium bowl. Wipe seeds from the spatula; scrape pulp from bottom of the strainer into the bowl. Discard seeds in strainer. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and a pinch salt. Chill until needed. Prepare fondue; pour into a chocolate fondue pot. Swirl 3 or 4 tablespoons Raspberry Coulis into the top. Serve at once.
Dark Chocolate Crème Fondue
Want a brain boost? Dip into a pot of warm, dark, rich chocolate fondue. Chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content delivers the most health benefits since flavonols in the chocolate have antioxidant properties. Cream and crème frâiche mellow the chocolate’s intense flavor. Don’t use a metal fondue pot, which can cause scorching. Serve with fondue forks and your favorite fall Foods for dipping.
1 cup heavy cream
3 (3-ounce bar) Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Dark Chocolate (70 percent), finely chopped
1/3 cup crème frâiche or sour cream, near room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons orange or coffee liqueur or strong coffee, if desired
In a medium saucepan, heat cream until very hot. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand a few minutes until chocolate softens; stir until smooth. Scrape chocolate into a small ceramic fondue pot; place over a tea light or votive candle to keep warm. Stir in crème frâiche and liqueur. Serve with fondue forks and your favorite Fall Foods for Dipping. Serves 4 to 5.
Fall Foods for Dipping
- Crystallized ginger
- Sliced fresh apples and pears
- Freeze-dried fruits
- Halved figs
- Clementine wedges and seedless grapes
- Fruitcake squares
- Dried Fruits
- Hachiya persimmon wedges
- Candied fruit peels
- Skewered sugar-frosted cranberries
- Pitted dates stuffed with toasted walnut halves and Stilton
- Stollen, panettone or panfort cubes
- Tiny gingerbread men
- Crushed peppermint candy canes
“A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be over sophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.” — Clifton Fadiman
A Mountain Of Cheeses
Columbia’s specialty shops, fine grocery stores and farmers’ markets continue to expand their range of imported cheeses and American specialty cheeses (of limited production), artisan cheeses (handmade in small batches), and farmstead cheeses (made with milk on the farm where the animal is raised.) According to the FDA, cheeses aged less than 60 days must be made with pasteurized milk. Those aged longer may be made from raw (non-pasteurized) milk.
- Appenzeller is a piquant, Alpine, semi-hard, part-skim cow’s milk cheese bathed in white wine, pepper and herbs. It’s sharper than Gruyère.
- Beaufort is a Gruyère-style French cheese made from the milk of cows grazing high in the Alps. An excellent melting cheese. Substitute Gruyère or award-winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve (Uplands Cheese, Wisconsin), made in the traditions of Beaufort and Gruyère.
- Camembert from Normandy is one of the most famous French cheeses. The white rind is edible. When ripe, it should be just soft on the inside but not spongy or runny.
- Cheddar is excellent for fondue. Recommended U.K. cheeses include “protected designation of origin” farmhouse Cheddars such as Keen’s Cheddar and Montgomery’s Cheddar. Mrs. Mary Quicke’s spicy English Devonshire Cheddar pairs well with hard cider. Outstanding American Cheddars abound; several include Vermont’s Shelburne Farms, Grafton Village Cheese and Cabot Creamery.
- Comté is a French cow’s milk cheese from the Jura Mountains in Franche-Comte. A close cousin to Swiss Gruyère, it is France’s favorite AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) cheese and excellent for melting. Comté extra, the highest grade, has a green label. By law, each cow is required to have 2.5 acres of personal grazing space.
- Emmentaler from Switzerland’s German-speaking Emmental Valley is a firm cow’s milk cheese, famous for big holes and nutty flavor. The cheese is a bit lower in fat and tends to be a bit stretchy and less cohesive when melted in fondue. Jarlesburg is similar to Emmentaler but softer and sweeter. Domestic supermarket Swiss cheese is not the same.
- Fontina Val d’Aosta is a semi-firm Italian cheese made from richly flavored cow’s milk in the Italian Alps. Excellent for fondue and grilled sandwiches. Italian Fontal, a respectable cousin, melts well too. Substitute Gruyère or Beaufort or American Belgiosio Fontina. Emmi Roth USA produces Swedish-style Fontina that is slightly tart and nutty. Award-winning Wisconsin Grand Cru Reserve is an Alpine-style cheese aged 6 to 8 months. Kaltbach Cave-aged Le Gruyère® Switzerland AOC is another good option.
- Gorgonzola is a creamy Italian blue cheese made from cow’s milk. Avoid overripe, weeping cheese. Substitute St Agur Blue, Cashew Blue, Clemson Blue or Maytag Blue. Gorgonzola Dolce is a milder, sweeter Gorgonzola.
- Gouda is a creamy cow’s milk from the Netherlands. Young Gouda has a mild buttery taste and melts easily with other ingredients. Aged Gouda is also flavorful in fondue.
- Gruyère, produced in village dairies in western Switzerland, is a nutty, rich cow’s milk cheese aged between 5 and 18 months. It is smooth and creamy when melted for fondue, gratins and onion soup. Substitute: Comté, Fontina, Beaufort or Emmi Roth USA’s Grand Cru® Gruyère Reserve.
- Neufchâtel is the oldest cheese in Normandy. Often heart-shaped, it resembles Camembert, but tastes a bit saltier and more pronounced. Don’t substitute lower-fat American Neufchatel, which is domestic cream cheese and not the same.
- Raclette cheese is usually melted in chunks on a raclette grill, then the melted cheese is scraped off and served with foods like potatoes and bread. It is a delicious melting cheese for fondue.
- Vacherin Fribourgeois is a Swiss, semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk. Excellent for melting, it is the creamiest of all mountain cheeses. Fontina Val d’Aosta is a good substitute or Rush Creek Reserve (Uplands Cheese, Wisconsin), made in the tradition of French Vacherin Mont d’Or, one of the world’s great cheeses.
Cheese Fondue Combinations
Fondue is only as good as the cheese you put into it. Use at least one outstanding mountain cheese for a classic fondue, or experiment with these combinations. You can also add aged, hard grating cheese in small amounts for extra flavor. Try Parmesan, Pecorino, Asiago, Aged Gouda, Dry Jack, Grana Padano or Leyden with caraway or cumin seeds.
- Emmentaler, Gruyère and Appenzeller with pesto
- Equal amounts Comté and Raclette or Fontal with sautéed mushrooms.
- Half Raclette and half Beaufort or Pleasant Ridge Reserve with South Carolina Split Creek Farm chèvre rolled in herbs.
- Sharp Cheddar, Gruyère, German lager and bacon
- Monterey Jack, white sharp Cheddar, salsa and chipotles.
- Quality Emmentaler, Gouda, Appenzeller, cream and toasted caraway seeds
- English Cheddar, Clemson blue cheese (http://www.clemson.edu/bluecheese/), sparkling cider and apple chutney
- Brillat-Savarin or Explorateur (triple cream cheeses), mild goat cheese, cream and Calvados (with sliced pears, apples and walnut bread.)
- Carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your fondue pot. Place it on a heatproof surface on your table.
- Never extinguish a burner by blowing out the flame. It can spread over the table. Use the flame snuffer included with your fondue set. Never put out a fondue pot fire with water.
- By swirling fondue forks with bread in the cheese fondue, it stays smooth and fluid. Use a figure-eight motion.
- Buy natural cheese that melts properly and only the amount you need right away. Remember the adage, “Young for cooking; old for eating.” Dry-aged cheeses are often saltier.
- Check cheese for