The word fondue sparks memories for many of us, especially for those growing up in Wisconsin. I remember my mother pulling out the fondue pot and creating a tasty blend of this traditional dish. All you really need is the right cheese, some wine and good bread.
Fondue was the rage in the ‘60s and ‘70s, then it seemed to have disappeared for 30-plus years. Today there are specialty restaurants that feature fondue and the culinary world is showing it the love it so richly deserves.
Fondue, originated in Switzerland, means “to melt” in French. Swiss herders are given credit for creating this classic dish.
In Alpine pastures, the workers’ cheese, bread and wine wound up mixed into the caquelon (an earthenware pot) and heated.
Today’s fondue evolved from that classic peasant meal, which was a practical way to use hardened cheese and stale bread. It was discovered by the Swiss aristocracy, who used better cheese and better bread, and subsequently moved on to become a fine dining item in upscale restaurants.
According to a long standing tradition, if a woman drops a piece of bread into the fondue pot, she has to kiss all the men; if a man drops the bread into the fondue, he has to buy a bottle of wine.
I know that at my house if you dropped two cubes of bread into the pot, you had to do the dishes, including the cleaning of the fondue pot, which was not much fun. Our family’s red fondue pot, with color tipped skewers, was discovered in a box at my parents’ home a few years ago. It had not been touched for many years. I am sure that many of you have a fondue pot. If not, ask a family elder – there is probably one in the basement or attic.
Fondue can be more than cheese fondue. There are fondues made with chocolate, dipping bread or fresh fruit. There are fondues that are for cooking small chunks of meat or seafood in oil, but the fondue most of us know and love is cheese fondue.
We are very fortunate to have some fantastic cheeses made by cheesemakers in Wisconsin for making really good fondues.
There is the big wheel Swiss, Emmentaler, made by Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman, of Edelweiss Creamery in Monticello. There is Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a raw milk, alpine-style cheese made by Andy Hatch, of Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville. Chris Roelli, of Roelli Cheese in Shullsburg, makes Little Mountain, a wash rind alpine-style cheese modeled after a Swiss Appenzeller. Last but not least is the Gruyere made by Roth Kase in Monroe. All of these cheeses work well in creating a superb fondue and are available at our store or online.
Find a recipe that sounds good to you and get cooking, you will be glad you did. There are some very good recipes online, including at eatwisconsincheese.com.
Source: Wisconsin Cheese: A cookbook and guide to the cheeses of Wisconsin by Pam Percy and Martin Hintz