December 27, 2019
We’ve probably all heard of fondue, but how many of us have actually tried to make it, or even wondered where it came from? The holidays are a perfect time to try fondue for the first time, or to experience it again, particularly because fondue is a meal that’s best served to big groups. Everyone can cook their own foods and graze at their leisure. And of course, fondue promotes sitting at the dinner table for hours, nibbling tasty morsels, sipping great wine and enjoying company.
While many people think fondue is only a cheese dish, the truth is there’s a few options for a fondue meal, but it did all start with the cheese…
Swiss Cheese and Fondue Origins
That delicious pot of melting cheese that everyone loves goes way back to the 18th century, where farm families in the Swiss Alps used limited resources, such as aged cheese and stale bread, to survive the winter.
Fondue, deriving from the French verb fondre, meaning "to melt," is a traditional Swiss dish, which typically combines Emmentaler and/or Gruyere cheese and wine, melted in a communal pot. A cherry brandy called Kirsch is added to the mixture, which becomes a dip for pieces of stale bread and crusts. Even though fondue has rural roots, now it is considered the Swiss national dish and is a symbol of Swiss identity. And a popular party meal!
Fondue is traditionally made and served in an earthenware pot known as a caquelon. This wide pot is preferred as it heats evenly and prevents the cheese from thickening. Bread is swirled into the bubbling cheese for a few seconds to coat the bread and make it softer. Rather than cleaning up melted cheese from the bottom of the pot, the last layer is left to cook until a dark crust forms. This crust is called the religieuse, and when chipped away from the pan is served at the end of the meal and is considered a delicacy.
What to Put in Your Cheese Fondue
Even though cheese, wine, and garlic are the basic ingredients in Swiss fondue, some recipes call for the addition of herbs, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, mustard, and occasionally tomato. The bread should be of a sturdier variety and can be either white or brown, cut into bite-sized chunks for dipping. Sometimes potatoes, cornichons, and pickled pearl onions can be served as well.
What Drinks to Pair with Cheese Fondue?
When it comes to drinks, white wine, or a glass of kirsch are considered the best drinks to accompany the fondue, but Co-op Wine Spirits Beer sommelier Mike Roberts says cheese fondue is best with Swiss Wine, like Quails Gate Chasselas, a Swiss grape variety.
Different Types of Fondue
With its growing popularity all over the world, fondue was soon applied to other dishes that involved one common pot from which everyone can eat. One popular version is Fondue Bourguignonne, a pot of hot oil, ready for cooking raw meat such as beef or chicken. Each person can cook meat to their style of doneness, and the meat is usually accompanied with different dipping sauces.
The lighter version of meat fondue, Fondue Court Bouillon, has its origins in Asia, and instead of cheese or oil, the liquid is substituted with broth. Broth fondue is usually served with thin slices of meat: beef, pork, lamb, or chicken. You can also serve small pieces of seafood or fresh vegetables.
Roberts recommends a beef broth fondue be served with a nice darker beer style, like Wild Rose Barracks Brown or if wine is your preference, look for Tinhorn Creek Merlot at your local Co-op Wine Spirits Beer store.
Chocolate fondue or dessert fondue was an American invention in the mid-20th century. To make it, a small amount of cream is brought to a simmer and mixed up with chocolate. Usually, it is served with fresh fruit, butter cookies, and pound cake for dipping. Try your dessert fondue with a Moscato D’Asti by Beni di Batasiolo, or ask your local sommelier for their recommendations.
What Do You Need For The Perfect Fondue Party?
Hosting a fondue party is always fun, but things can go wrong if you don't own proper equipment for the type of fondue you are serving.
If you decide to make cheese fondue, you will need equipment that uses adjustable alcohol or gel fuel burner to maintain the constant temperature required to keep melted cheese from solidifying again. The cheese fondue pots are made of ceramic or earthenware, have a flat bottom, and have large openings to accommodate dipping.
Hot oil fondue pots must be able to resist high temperatures in order to fully cook your meat. They are made of stainless steel, copper or cast iron. In this case, ceramic pots are not suitable.
Chocolate or dessert fondue pots are smaller and use a tealight to keep the melted chocolate at the right temperature and are made of earthenware, ceramic, or porcelain.
In recent years, electric fondue pots have become really popular. Most of them can be used for all types of fondue as the temperature can be modified.
Besides the right fondue pot, you will need a few more things in order to have a perfect fondue party:
Why not make this the year you throw an epic fondue party? Raise a glass and try our tips and share this historic dish with family and friends.
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