Fondue is a traditional Swiss cuisine dish which is prepared by few types of cheese and white wine melted in a special pot and consummated with pieces of bread dipped into it.
The products needed to prepare this dish are just few, the technology is not complex, but Fondue is very delicious and the Swiss have a good reason to be proud of their only national dish.
Where does the dish originate from?
According to one of the legends the ones that are “responsible” for the opportunity to enjoy the most delicious and flavored cheese are Swiss shepherds. Many, many years ago Alpine shepherds were out of food. The only products that they had were bread, cheese and wine. The bread and cheese, however, were always dry and hard and shepherds craved warm food. So one day someone made up the idea to put pieces of cheese into a fire-heated pot and to add wine for flavor after the pieces had melted.
Another legend tells that Fondue was made up in the XIIIth century by the Swiss monarch Vacarinus. At that time there were strict church rules according to which during the Lent the monks were forbidden to eat cheese. In order to bypass the rules Vacarinus took a clay pot, put hard pieces of cheese in it and melted them. Monks argued continuously if this dish contradicts the rules or not but finally gluttony prevailed and they decided that this “cheese soup” is different and can be consummated during the Lent.
Initially Fondue was prepared only in Alpine regions but soon it became popular also among the peasants in the plain areas and afterwards in the aristocratic houses where it was prepared from the best types of cheese and wine and was accompanied by a wide assortment of fresh bread.
With time each Swiss canton made up its Fondue variation and the “melted cheese” became a national dish.
A decisive role for popularizing Fondue around the world had the famous Frenchman Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Escaping from the French revolution Savarin spent two years in the United States where he played the violin in the New York theatre orchestra but his true passion had always been cooking and he often cooked Fondue for his friends.
But the interest (or mania) in this dish appeared a little afterwards and reached its peak during the 60s and 70s of the past century when all over the world different Fondue variations and recipes were offered which unfortunately were far from the original Swiss recipe.
Few more interesting facts about the most popular Swiss cuisine dish
*In Homer`s Iliad he mentioned a dish which resembled a lot the preparation of Swiss Fondue. In his book Homer described a dish prepared by grated goat cheese, wine and flour, boiled at open fire. Although the described recipe is more than 2,800 years old, it can be called an ancient relative of the Swiss national dish.
*If nowadays you ask in France or Italy which is the homeland of Fondue, both countries will take the credit for it. The truth however is that Fondue was “born” in Switzerland and more precisely in the canton of Valais.
*The first written evidence of Swiss Fondue dates back from 1699. In its culinary book Anna Margaretha Gessner described a dish called “cheese with wine” (“Käss mit Wein”).
*The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a big Fondue admirer. In a letter to his friend Francois Coindet he wrote that if Coindet managed to find a piece of Gruyére cheese, they could enjoy a fine delicacy of Swiss cuisine.
*During the Great Depression in 1914 the Swiss Cheese Association was facing a great decrease in sales. In order to survive somehow it started offering Fondue cheese. As a result the dish appeared at the national exhibition “Village Suisse” in Geneva, and afterwards – at the World Exhibition in New York in 1939 – 1940.
*The name of the dish was made up by the French and means “to warm up, “to melt”.
Popular types of Fondue
Fondue recipes are as many as the Swiss cantons. Thus the most popular traditional Swiss Fondue type usually consists of a combination of two cheeses – Emmental and Gruyère to which are added dry white wine and Kirsch (cherry brandy for flavor).
This is the most popular recipe (which you can also try in the restaurants in Bansko), but as already mentioned each canton in Switzerland has its own “traditional” Fondue recipe.
For example in Fribourg Fondue is prepared with Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois cheeses, but the wine and kirsch are often replaced with water. In this method of preparation (without wine) the bread is first dipped into cherry brandy or liquor, and afterwards in the melted cheese.
In Geneva Fondue is prepared from three types of cheeses: Gruyère, Emmental and Walliser – Bergkäse (Walliser Bergkäse), and in Eastern Switzerland the preference is to add dry apple wine instead of Kirsch. In the canton of Vaadt garlic is obligatorily added to the Fondue and in Neuchatel two thirds of Gruyère cheese and one third of Emmental cheese is used.
In order to prepare Fondue at home, it is necessary to get yourself some special devices – a Fondue pot, a spirit lamp or candle, and long two- or three-stemmed forks.
The pot where the Fondue is cooked is called “caquelon” and it is basically a cast iron, clay of enameled pot. The “caquelon” is put on a special metal pad with a spirit lamp or candle to heat the cheese.
Classical fondue recipe
Two or three types of Swiss cheese (approximately 800 – 1,000 gr of cheese or 200 – 250 gr per capita are required to prepare Fondue for 4 people)
The classic option is to choose Gruyère and Emmental cheese, but Vacherin Fribourgeois, Raclette, Appenzeller, Tilsilter and Sbrints are also very popular.
500 ml dry white wine
Dry white wine is most suitable and you can add a tablespoon of lemon juice to it in order to prevent the cheese from thickening fast. In addition to white wines you can also use sparkling, champagne wines or apple wine
Do not overuse the wine – due to the cheese consistency, the excessive wine can spoil the taste of the dish. The quantity of wine should be such so as to allow the flavor of the alcohol in the dish (if the Fondue is to be consumed by children, you can use alcohol-free wine or champagne).
40 ml Kirsch (cherry brandy)
If you cannot find Kirsch, you can replace it with liquor.
One teaspoon of lemon juice
12 – 13 gr corn starch
10 gr garlic
Nutmeg, black and white pepper
600 gr dry bread
It is advisable to cut the bread into small bites.
How to prepare Fondue: step by step
Peal the garlic and rub it well to the inner side of the Fondue pot. Pour the wine, the lemon juice and the spices in the “caquelon”.
Grate the cheeses and add them to the wine and spices. Stir energetically. Once the cheese has melted, add the starch, mixed with the Kirsch. Stir energetically so that all the ingredients can mix well.
Once ready, the Fondue is served immediately. Eat directly from the pot dipping the bread in the Fondue with the help of the long stemmed forks.
If you are not very sure you will succeed in preparing a Fondue at home, you can always try the most delicious traditional Swiss cuisine dish in some of the popular restaurants in Bansko.