Cheese Matters: Fondue

Depending on your era you may or may not be familiar with fondue. This sharing experience of food was totally hip and groovy in the 70s,when fondue parties were the dinner party of choice.

It seems the roots of fondue lie in Switzerland, where it was promoted with slogans such as “fondue is good and creates a good mood”.

Over time many countries around the world adopted fondue. Special little pots were required, with distinctive forks that have long stems, lots of melting style cheese and yummy food bits to put on the end of your fork to dip into the hot cheesey liquid.

The fondue pot is quite a cute little thing that generally sits on a stand and has a little burner underneath in order to keep the fondue warm and in a liquid state. The fondue pot became a very popular wedding gift in the 70s.

I recall many people telling me when I was looking for fondue pots for CheeseFest last year, they still had the one they were given for a wedding gift in the shed or on the top shelf in the pantry room. Well, if you have one bring it out! Fondue has once again become a popular gastronomic experience, one we should all try at least once. The cooler weather now is begging for a fondue session to happen. So here’s how you go about it.

Of course if you do not have a fondue pot, visit your local op shop, they are sure to have a couple stashed on their shelves. Now, the important bit – the cheese. You must choose the correct cheese in order to produce a really good fondue. Select from quality Gruyere, Edam, Emmentaler, sharp Cheddar or even Camembert.

There are many recipes for fondue. Once you start looking it is quite surprising. Even celebrity chefs have a few takes on this groovy offering. The first recorded fondue recipe was in a 1699 book which was published in Zurich under the name Käss mit Wein zu kochen which translates to ‘cooking with cheese and wine’.

It simply asks for one cup of grated or cut cheese to be melted with wine and to dip bread cubes into it. While the foundation is there, a few more ingredients really go a long way in shaping some great flavours for you to enjoy. Fondue should be runny and stringy, not thick and stodgy, and the key to achieving this is using cornflour and white wine.

The cornflour prevents the proteins in the cheese coagulating and the acidity in the wine keeps the cheese stringy. Here’s my favourite recipe, which I discovered when looking for fondue recipes for the Funky Fondue Lounge at CheeseFest last year.

Cheese Fondue Recipe

Ingredients

• 450g gruyère cheese, grated
• 450g comte cheese, grated
• 15g cornflour
• 30ml sherry
• 2 thyme sprigs
• 3 garlic cloves, bashed
• 500ml white wine
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 5g English mustard powder
• 1 pinch ground nutmeg

Method

1. Start by mixing the grated cheeses with the cornflour in a bowl, then bring the sherry to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the thyme and garlic then remove from the heat and allow it to infuse for a few minutes. Strain and allow to cool. Bring the wine and lemon juice to the boil in a medium saucepan, then add the cheese, a little at a time, stirring continuously until it is glossy, smooth and creamy.

2. Now add the infused sherry, mustard powder and ground nutmeg. Stir those into the cheese and wine and continue to stir until the fondue thickens.

3. Transfer this to your fondue pot and serve with cubes of sourdough bread and crudités. I love cornichons, olives, radishes, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms as seasonal dippings.

4. It is important to make sure the cheese fondue mixture is kept warm enough to maintain a smooth and liquid mixture, but not so hot that it burns.

For something a bit different, replace the wine with beer or cider, the flavours are great. Another type of very popular fondue is the chocolate fondue. Personally I am not a sweet tooth, so I will stick to the cheese version but I am acutely aware I could be in the minority there. Try melted Toblerone in some good dark chocolate with a titch of your favourite liqueur, something like Grand Marnier.

 

Now the dippings for chocolate fondue can be interesting. Anything from marshmallows, chunks of banana, milk bottle lollies, and the perfectly sensible strawberry all work a treat. I can hear you now: “Have you seen the old fondue set?” I hope I have encouraged you to dust it off and enjoy the “good mood” that fondue creates.

Kris Lloyd is Woodside Cheese Wrights’ Head Cheesemaker
woodsidecheese.com.au

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