Fondue

You can conjure up a lot with delicious Swiss cheese, but nary a dish can compete with fondue. It’s not only the intoxicating aroma of the gooey, warm cheese that inspires new devotees to this mainstay of Swiss gastronomy, but also the communal experience of gathering around a common pot along with the combination of traditional and new recipe variations.

Fondue is a true mountain tradition that likely comes from the Savoy Alps. Whether it was a Frenchman, Italian or Swiss who filled the first caquelon can never be firmly established. But what is certain is that the cooks of the Swiss Army helped fondue capture the nation’s appetites and hearts when they first served it to troops as a main dish.

Today, not only is fondue a welcome guest at any kind of gathering, it has since developed any number of variations from the original. Wine, cheese, and bread, a caquelon and elongated forks, a few drinks, and good company are all you need for a successful fondue evening.

What are the most important fondue ingredients?

A classic fondue is made from one or more varieties of strong cheese and an alcoholic spirit such as white wine, beer, fruit brandy or cider. Another important component of the dish is the bread for dipping, although new potatoes or vegetables could be used as a substitute. In addition, spices such as pepper, nutmeg, paprika, or various herbs can give a fondue that extra touch of flavour. Garlic or kirschwasser are often used to round off the fondue, whereas lemon juice makes it creamier, corn starch serves as a thickening agent, and baking soda can aid the digestion.

You should plan for 200 g of cheese and an equal amount of bread or potatoes per person. And for every 400 g of cheese, 150 ml of white wine or a different variety of alcoholic beverage. If expecting hungry guests, you can double the amount of cheese but slightly less than double the amount of white wine to create twice as much fondue. The reason for this is that the alcohol has to evaporate from the open caquelon. The opening reveals the same evaporation surface even when the amount of fondue mixture is greater, including the alcohol component. This may mean that more wine remains in the cheese, which affects the taste of the fondue.

On the other hand, different fondue pots have different opening sizes, which makes it difficult to give a precise wine to cheese ratio for larger fondues. If in doubt, simply give it a try and omit the optional kirschwasser if necessary.

Fondue im Brot
Unusual fondue seasonings Unusual fondue seasonings

While not necessarily traditional, seasoning a fondue with chilli powder or a curry mixture is absolutely worth trying. These can create completely new flavours, surprising even experienced fondue connoisseurs with slightly spicy flavour nuances.

How to prepare cheese fondue

The most important rule is that the fondue must never come to a boil, because too much heat makes it runny. Even at the very start when the alcohol is heated it should merely simmer. When this occurs, reduce the heat and add the grated or diced cheese and mix in the flour. Now it’s important to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until all the cheese has melted and the desired consistency is achieved.

The mixture should never be heated beyond a slight bubbling and must be regularly stirred, even during serving. This prevents the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pot. On the other hand, the cheesy crust that forms this way is considered a delicacy by many, perhaps even the highlight of the fondue evening. So if you’re looking forward to this crispy, chewy bounty, best not to scrape the bottom of the caquelon too often while stirring.

Tips for the ideal consistency Tips for the ideal consistency

If the fondue doesn’t immediately reach the desired silky creamy consistency, there are a few tricks that can help. If it’s too thick and sticky, adding a bit more warm white wine can help. On the other hand, if it’s too fluid, some corn starch mixed with wine or lemon juice will act as a binder. If the cheese and oil start to separate during either preparation or serving, it often helps to reheat the fondue over medium heat. Apart from that, vigorous stirring and a mixture of white wine, corn starch, and lemon juice will help to reunite the components into a creamy whole.

The right cheese and fondue variations

Cheeses that are not too young and are nice and spicy are particularly suitable for a fondue. Swiss cheeses such as gruyère and emmental are often used, but asiago, brie, cheddar and parmesan also find their way into the occasional fondue pot. An equally classic and popular mix is ​​the so-called Moitié-Moitié, which consists of half gruyère and half vacherin fribourgeois.

Tomaten-Fondue

There are also fondues that don’t use cheese at all. A Chinese fondue or “hot pot” involves cooking meat, fish, or vegetables in a simmering pot of hot stock or water. When half the liquid in the fondue pot consists of wine and spices, this is called a vintner fondue.

A tomato fondue is perhaps the most popular adaptation of the classic cheese fondue. Tomato purée is added to the cheese in the caquelon as well as herbs such as thyme; this tastes fantastic with roasted potatoes and provides a welcome change for many fans of cheese fondue.

Extra tip: an egg as the crowning stroke Extra tip: an egg as the crowning stroke

If there’s just a little cheese mixture left over at the end, stirring in a fresh egg or two to finish off the remaining bread gives the fondue a completely new note at the end, leaving once-hungry guests sated and satisfied.

Wine and bread

Wine is not only an ingredient, but also the ideal complementary drink with fondue. A dry white wine goes just as well in a glass as into the caquelon. Those who prefer red wine with this tantalising cheese dish are advised to choose a very light vintage. Water and herbal teas can also serve as thirst quenchers, whereas black tea aids in digestion. Alcoholic digestifs help less than one would think because the body is first occupied with breaking down the alcohol and then later the fat.

As far as the bread for dipping goes, it shouldn’t be too fresh, as otherwise it slips off the fork too easily and disappears into the depths of the fondue. Whether one uses whole grain, white, or half white half whole wheat is a question of personal taste. If using potatoes, one should opt for a more firm-cooking variety because these stay on the fork a bit better.

After the fondue

A sociable meal also includes a complementary dessert. After a fondue, one should avoid chocolate crème pots or other heavy sweets. When everyone is full from cheese and bread, it’s better to indulge in something light and fresh, such as a fruit salad with pineapple or a coconut and passionfruit sorbet, i.e. something without cream.

If there’s leftover cheese after the fondue, this can be used the next day for a toast Hawaii or baked over potatoes. If there’s leftover bread, it’s easy to use up with a bread and butter pudding or French toast.

If any cheese has hardened in the caquelon, it helps to soak in baking powder and water. Simply add both to the pot, lightly warm it and then remove the crust carefully.

Tip: cheese smell Tip: cheese smell

When all the cheese is gone from the pot, there might still be a strong fondue fragrance in the air. This can be cleared by airing out the room with some open windows and using some scented candles… or, with spiced orange pomander balls.

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