Swiss cheese fondue

Fondue is a winter staple in Switzerland. It is perfect after a day of skiing or outdoor activities or generally on a cold winter night. The preparation is fairly simple, the most important is the choice of top quality ingredients. 

Here’s a recipe for a fondue moitié-moitié using equal quantities of both Gruyère cheese and Vacherin Fribourgeoise, two cheeses coming from the Fribourg canton of Switzerland, the origin of fondue. Other regional specialities exist (e.g. 2 parts Gruyère, 1 part Appenzeller, 1 part Vacherin Fribourgeois).

Try to buy the cheese cut straight from the whole cheese round and keep in mid that non-pasteurised cheeses have usually more flavour than pasteurised ones. If you can only find pre-shredded fondue mixes avoid those ones that contain anything more than cheese and cornstarch. A supplementary tip from my cheese shop: the more different varieties of the same cheese you put into your fondue the more flavourful it will be. For example, when I bought Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois for my fondue for 10 people, I had 3 different varieties of Gruyère cheese and 3 different varieties of Vacherin.

For a fondue for three people, you will need:

– 300g of Gruyère cheese

– 300g of Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese

– +/-200ml of dry white wine (e.g. Fendant)

– 4 level teaspoons of cornstarch

– a good splash of Kirsch brandy

– 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

– black pepper

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Pour the wine into a fondue caquelon and put onto a medium flame. When it starts to simmer, add the coarsely grated Gruyère, the cornstarch and the lemon juice. Keep stirring to melt the cheese. When the mixture starts to bubble, lower the heat and add the coarsely grated Vacherin Fribourgeois continuing to stir. It is important that the mixture does not come to a boil anymore: Vacherin Fribourgeois should not be heated too much as it gets unpleasantly chewy. Once the mixture is all melted and homogeneous, add a good shot of Kirsch to taste. You are now ready to eat.

Place the caquelon on its réchaud on the table. Take a small piece of good quality white bread (which should have a nice crust and a not too soggy crumb) onto your fondue fork and dunk it into the caquelon. I usually find it best not to put pepper into the fondue but to let each person ground some black pepper onto its plate in order to dip the cheesy bread cube into it.

Alternatively or additionally to the bread you can use small boiled potatoes. This is a bit lighter than the bread.

It is important to adjust the flame so that the fondue remains hot but does not bubble too much, just below simmer point is perfect. Also, each time you dunk your bread cube into the caquelon make sure you stir the mixture well so that it stays homogeneous.

The cornstarch helps to thicken and homogenise the cheese, while the lemon juice helps to avoid separation. You may need to add some additional white wine if you find the mixture too thick, it should not be too sticky. Vice versa, if it stays too runny, add a little bit of cornstarch.

Bon appétit!

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