If you were to ask me which food I miss most when I am away from Switzerland for a long time, many people think I would say chocolate, but actually it’s something else entirely: cheese and bread. Don’t get me wrong: there are nice cheeses elsewhere in the world. But for me, there is nothing to match a “Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOC, höhlengereift” or a “Luzerner Rahmkäse” (as examples). You also get such wonderfully tasty and diverse bread in Switzerland. Rather than a white bread French-baguette style, we are talking more full grain bread, bread with seeds or nuts in it, bread with dark flour, etc.
This brings me to a match made in heaven: Fondue. The word itself actually comes from the french word “fondre” which means “to melt”, and cheese fondue in principle is nothing else than molten cheese (mixed with some other ingredients of course). Below you can find my favourite recipe, which I have refined over the years. Beside the traditional Swiss cheese fondue, there are following other fondues:
- Fondue chinoise : Meat and vegetables are cooked on long forks in a shared pot of broth
- Chocolate fondue : Sliced fruit or pastry are dipped in a shared pot of melted chocolate
- Fondue Bourguignonne : Similar to Fondue chinoise, but instead of broth you use hot oil (note: this is not as dangerous as it sounds!)
- Fondue Vigneronne : Similar to Fondue chinoise, but this time with wine instead of broth (note: there is cooking involved here. Simply drinking a bottle of wine does not count)
So why should you love homemade cheese fondue?
Reason 1 : Choose your favourite cheeses
Most Swiss supermarkets sell pre-prepared fondue mixes that are easy to prepare and taste pretty good. However, you can tailor your fondue to your own tastes if you choose your own cheeses to mix. If you already know you like a stronger, spicier cheese mix, then you can choose something like the afore-mentioned “Gruyere AOC höhlengereift” or the “Appenzeller Extra-Würzig”. Hint: when looking for a spicy and strong cheese in Switzerland, just look for the words “rezent”, “würzig”, “kräftig”, “reif” and/or “surchoix”. On the other hand, if you would rather have a bit a milder flavour, go for cheeses with the words “mild” and “doux”. The three classic cheeses for a fondue mix are Emmentaler, Gruyère and Appenzeller. There are no limitations to your creativity though. For example, I love a bit of “Luzerner Rahmkäse” in the fondue as it is creamier and softer than the other cheeses.
Reason 2: Easy to prepare and quick to clean up
To prepare a fondue yourself is not rocket science. All you need is a grater and all the right ingredients and voila: Fondue. Well, it’s not that simple but still, you don`t really need any experiences as a cook to prepare a fondue. I’ll show you exactly what you need for a fondue and how you prepare it below. As you basically only need one pot to melt the cheese, the cleaning up is quick to do.
Reason 3 : It’s very sociable
Fondue is one of the most sociable meals you can get in Switzerland. As there is only one pot of melted cheese in the middle of the table, everyone has to be huddled around the pot in order to eat. You need to be looking at what you are doing with your hands, so it doesn’t lend itself well to staring at a TV or a phone screen. And it’s grim and cold outside so nobody will want to leave. That’s when you can tell them that there are old traditions and rules for eating a fondue.
The most important one of those is the “punishment” for dropping one’s bread in the pot. One of the original consequences was that the man who loses a piece of bread in the fondue has to buy drinks for everyone on the table, whilst the poor women who dropped the bread then had to kiss all the guys. In modern times, the rules are likely to change depending on who is hosting the fondue. The best thing to do is agree the forfeit before you start eating and then having a good laugh at the expense of whoever drops their bread. Whilst making sure that yours is firmly on the end of your fork.
Tom’s Cheese Fondue with fresh herbs
You will need for 4 people:
One fondue set, with a burner and four fondue forks.
Clove of garlic, halved
Sprig of rosemary, chop the leaves only
Sprig of thyme, chop the leaves only
some sage leaves, finely chopped
400g Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOC höhlengereift, coarsely grated
200g Luzerner Rahmkäse Rustico, coarsely grated
200g Emmentaler AOP höhlengereift, coarsely grated
2 tbsp corn starch
350ml dry white wine (my favorite one is “Federweisser”)
2-3 tbsp kirsch (cherry schnapps)
1-2 tsp nutmeg powder
1-2 tsp paprika
- Prepare the table with placemats (cheese drips, you have been warned), and one small plate and one fondue fork each per person.
- Cut the bread into strips and put them in one or two large bowls on the prepared table.
3. Rub the complete inner surface of the Caquelon (fondue pan) with the garlic, then finely cube the garlic and put aside.
4. Mix the grated cheese and the corn starch in the Caquelon and add the wine (feel free to take a sip of the wine)
5. Let the cheese/wine mix slowly melt at medium heat. Stir it with a figure-8 movement all the time.
6. As soon as the fondue has a smooth and creamy texture, add the kirsch, the nutmeg, the paprika and the herbs and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
7. Serve the fondue to waiting guests while still stirring it. Eat immediately.
- If the fondue is too thin, mix 1 tsp corn starch with a splash of white wine and lemon juice and add it to the fondue
- If you mix the cheese, corn starch and wine already about 30 minutes before you start to prepare the fondue, it will be a bit creamier
- Instead of white wine you could use as well Prosecco or Champagne, that gives the fondue a bit of an extra kick.
If you have any questions about fondue, then don’t hesitate and ask me in the comment section. Or if you are a fan of fondue like us, feel free to share your own recipe as well!