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Fondue Basics


When friends gather around, it is time to get out the fondue pot and enjoy the spirit of communal eating

A brief history of fondue

The origins of fondue as a community dish began in Switzerland among French-speaking villagers who survived the winter on hard cheeses and dried up breads. In fact, the French word for fondue - fondre - means melt.

While these fondues blended the hardened cheeses and made the stale bread edible, other fondues also have a history including meat fondues (called Fondue Bourguignonne), Fondue Court Bouillion, and - during the 1970s - dessert fondues.

Fondues are prepared in one of two ways. The most recognizable is the cheese fondue in which food is dipped into the cooked sauce and then eaten. The second type involves cooking bites of food in the fondue pot, which may be filled with oil or broth, and then removing to dip into a separate sauce before eating.

Basic fondue techniques

This section refers to cheese fondues. We'll cover other fondue styles in a separate article.

A cheese fondue typically consists of two cheeses that are complementary in tastes. They should be aged for at least six months. Recommended cheese pairings include: Guryere and Emmetal, Gruyere and Raclette, Gruyere and Vacherin, and mozzarella and Provolone.

White, acidic wines should be used. These wines bind to the cheese and make them smooth and creamy, rather than stringy. A wine also helps keep cheese from boiling and curdling. A young Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc would be a good match.

Beer is sometimes included in recipes and should place the wine. A basic beer fondue might include American processed cheese combined with Swiss.

Kirsch, or Kirschwasser, is often used instead of the extra wine to dissolve the cornstarch. It is a clear brandy distilled from cherries; also called cherry schnapps. Kirsch is typically added to young wines if extra tartness is needed.

It is easiest to start the fondue in a double boiler on the stove. Then you can transfer it to the fondue pot to keep it warm.

Ingredients:
1 ¼ lb cheeses (a mix of half and half or however you want to divide)
1 garlic clove, halved
1/14 cups dry white wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Ground black pepper and nutmeg for topping

-Cut the cheeses into small cubes. Keep hard and soft cheeses separate. The hard cheese should be cooked first.
-Rub the bottom of the pot with the garlic halves, then discard.
-Turn on heat.
-Add the wine and bring to near boiling before reducing heat.
-Add the hard cheese, stirring constantly.
-When the hard cheese is nearly melted, add the soft cheese. The pot should be at simmer.
-Add cornstarch to a tablespoon or two of wine and mix to dissolve. Add and continue stirring until all cheese has melted; you are looking for a creamy consistency.
-Transfer to fondue pot and add grated nutmeg and pepper on top.

-Always keep the fondue warm by stirring regularly. Scrap from the bottom to keep the sauce from sticking.

-While not considered quite as good, apple cider can be used in a fondue instead of wine; this is a great substitute when serving children.

-An Italian fondue, called fonduta, uses milk instead of wine and could also be included in a non-alcoholic menu.

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