It’s wintertime folks, and in our book, that means an excuse to eat gratuitous amounts of cheese. New Year’s resolutions be damned! Winter was made for cheese consumption, and fondue is at the top of our list of wintry cheese indulgence! Read on to learn some fascinating tidbits about the history of fondue, our top cheese picks for fondue, and an easy recipe.
Fondue originated in Switzerland – the earliest mention of a fondue recipe is from a cookbook dating back to 1699, however, fondue did not reach it’s apex of popularity until much later. In the 1930’s the Swiss Cheese Union began to tout fondue as the national dish of Switzerland in order to promote cheese consumption. (Those sly foxes, bless them!) The name ‘fondue’ is the feminine form of the French verb ‘to melt’. And melt it does – something about fondue’s melty-ness (especially when paired with a light, crisp acidic white wine!) allows a body to consume WAY more cheese than in its non-melted state. Another interesting factoid – the introduction of corn starch (known as Maizena in Switzerland) in 1905 allowed for a smoother emulsion of cheese and wine and most likely contributed to fondue’s gastronomic success. That gastronomic discovery was made in 1840 in Jersey City, New Jersey, so though the Americans didn’t contribute much on the cheese-front, we can take credit for a teeny tiny part of fondue’s history!
Contrary to popular belief, fondue was a not a rustic peasant dish, but was consumed by more well-off city and town dwellers who could afford Gruyere, which was a higher priced export cheese. After the rationing and food scarcity of the second world war ended, fondue reclaimed prominence as one of the most popular dishes in Switzerland, and it was introduced to the US at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Following its stateside debut, fondue garnered a cult following in America in the 1960’s and 1970’s (hence all that cool retro fondue ware you see in places like The Brooklyn Kitchen, etcetera, etcetera)
Here’s a rundown of our favorite cheeses for fondue (if you’re looking at the pic above, they’re listed from top to bottom) Mix, match, and munch away!
Spring Brook Farm, VT – raw cow
Buttery, fruity, earthy, and a touch funky
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar
Jasper Hill Farm, VT – pasteurized cow
Brothy, peanut-buttery, caramelly
Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Uplands Cheese Company, WI – raw cow
Firm, pineapple-y, astringent, studded with crystalline crunchy bits
Spring Brook Farm, VT
Mild, buttery, nutty, a touch sweet
Jasper Hill Farm, VT – raw cow
Nutty, oniony, and tangy
An Easy Fondue Recipe – serves 4
1 clove garlic, halved crosswise
1 1/2 cups white wine
8 ounces of three of the above cheeses grated (you can increase this recipe as you see fit! the general rule of thumb is about 8 ounces of cheese per person)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp corn starch
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground pepper
1 baguette (or your favorite bread!)
fruit and vegetables to pair (our favorites are cornichons, apples, pears, carrots, and cauliflower)
- Rub inside of fondue pot with garlic and then discard. Pour wine into pout and heat over med-low heat. When liquid starts to bubble, start adding cheese by the handfuls, stirring until melted and combined.
- Whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch dissolves (you can substitute kirsch or eau de vie for the lemon juice if you want to booze it up a bit!) then stir into cheese mixture. Continue stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbling slightly – about 5 minutes. Season with nutmeg and pepper
- Transfer the fondue pot to the table and keep warm over the fondue pot warmer. Serve with bread, fruits, and vegetables.