A traditional Cheese Fondue
The origins of the cheese fondue can be found in Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta Valley). The earliest known recipe for a fondue as we know it today was found in Zurich in a book published in 1699. Not surprisingly the Fondue Savoyarde contains cheeses from the Haute Savoie and Savoie regions of the Rhone Alps. These are typically Beaufort, Comte and Tomme de Savoie.
The word fondue is a French word meaning melted which is derived from the verb Fondre (to melt). A cheese fondue is normally cooked on a portable stove brought to the table to create a sociable meal of dipping pieces of bread on long forks into the delicious melted cheese and wine mixture. Tradition has it that there are forfeits given to those losing their bread in the fondue pot; if a man loses his bread he buys the next drinks and if a woman loses hers she must kiss her neighbours! The local Savoie wines are used in the fondue and are a very good accompaniment for the fondue.
There are many recipes and variations of cheeses and quantities, I bought my cheeses from a local delicatessen in Les Gets – La Cave Getoise and asked his advice about his favourite cheeses for a fondue, he is a Getois (someone who comes from Les Gets) but one of the cheeses he recommended is Swiss! He grated them all for me too, which saves a lot of time. So I thought I’d give it a try and here is the recipe I used for 4 people around 700 – 800g of grated cheese in total. It was delicious!
Recipe for Cheese Fondue
A Fondue Savoyarde
400g Beaumont – a French Gruyere
150g Vacherin – Swiss
1 1/2 teaspoons cornflour
a small glass of Kirsch
1 bottle of dry white Savoie wine – I used Apremont
1 garlic clove
1 large loaf of bread cut into 2-3cm cubes
How to make Cheese Fondue
Mix the cornflour with the Kirsch. Rub the peeled and cut in half garlic clove around the inside of the fondue pan, normally a large Le Creuset or heavy-bottomed type pan. Pour in half the bottle of wine and bring to the boil. Add the Kirsch and cornflour mix stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it lightly boils. Slowly add the grated cheese, alternating with a little wine. Make sure the mixture is hot enough to melt the cheese but doesn’t re-boil as this could curdle the cheese.
NB: I made the fondue on my hob and then when piping hot and ready I put it on the portable stove for serving and to keep warm at the table – bon appétit!
Which wine to serve with a cheese fondue?
The wines that seem to pair best with a cheese fondue are the more acid style white wines. There is a great selection of Savoie wines that work perfectly like Crepy, Apremont (which is in my fondue too!) or a fine Chignin. Make sure you serve these wines well chilled.
What is the difference between a Swiss and French Cheese Fondue?
The main difference between a Swiss and French cheese fondue is that the Swiss one is made with 2 cheeses and often known as a ‘moitié moitié’ It is made using equal quantities of Gruyere and Vacherin normally from Fribourg – this gives a paler creamier version of the fondue. Having eaten both it’s hard to say which I prefer – I love any cheese fondue!
One of my favourite Swiss cheese fondues is at Les Bains des Paquis in Geneva – served in the winter with beautiful views of the lake and the jet d’eau.