The Cheese and Wine Shop Fondue guide

All about Fondues; an overview

Fondue History

This warm cheese dish originated in Switzerland and more specifically in the Canton of Neuchatel. The dish consists of at least two varieties of cheeses that are melted with wine and a bit of flour and served communally out of pot called a "caquelon". Long forks are used by each guest to spear a cube of bread then the bread is dipped into the cheese and eaten.

Fondue dates back to the 18th century when both cheese and wine were important industries in Switzerland.  The simple to prepare meal utilized ingredients that were found in most average homes.

The Swiss Tradition

Each component of a traditional Swiss fondue plays an import role.  Most recipes we see for "traditional" Swiss style fondue are a combination of two cheeses, Gruyere and Emmenthaler.  These two cheeses are combined because either cheese alone would produce either a mixture that was too sharp or too bland. The cheeses are most commonly melted in a dry white wine which helps to keep the cheese from the direct heat as it melts as well as to add flavor. The Kirsch (a clear cherry brandy) was added if the cheese itself was too young to produce the desired tartness. The garlic was for additional flavoring while the flour or cornstarch assists in keeping the cheese from separating.

In fact each canton in Switzerland has their own "traditional" style fondue.

The fondue from this region combines Gruyere with Vacherin a Fondue.  The wine and Kirsch is only added if the cheese is not fully ripened.  When the wine is not used, guests dip their bread in plum schnapps, then into the fondue.

It is common to use three cheeses, Gruyere, Emmental and Walliser Bergkase.  A regional addition may include chopped morel mushrooms.

First a roux is made of butter, flour and milk is made and Gruyere and Schabzieger cheeses are added.

Eastern Switzerland
Appenzeller and Vacherin a Fondue are the cheeses of choice combined with a dry cider.

The locals roast and chop garlic then combine with Gruyere cheese.

A combination of two thirds Gruyere and one third Emmental, or a half and half version with Neuchatel wine.

The Traditional Pot (Caquelon)
The traditional fondue pot is called a "caquelon" or "câclon" and is made of a heavy earthenware.  Other variations include glazed ceramic or enameled iron.  All variations are heavy to help promote even heat distribution and heat retention. The fondue is heated on your cooktop in the caquelon over low to medium heat then transferred to the table and placed over an alcohol burner or a hot plate. 


Given Fondue is a "communal" meal there are a few basic guidelines to follow.   To eat cheese fondue spear a piece of bread using a fondue fork and dip it into the pot. Twirl the bread cube gently in the cheese to coat it.  You'll want to let the bread drip a bit before you put it in your mouth.  This will allow the excess to drip back in the pot and also allow time for cooling. When you put the bread in your mouth try not to touch the fork with your lips or tongue because the fork does go back in the pot.   Alternately you can use a dining fork to slide the bread off the fondue fork then eat it with the 2nd fork.  This is probably more cumbersome than necessary.

To eat meat fondue, spear a piece of meat and plunge it in the hot oil.  Allow it to sit until the meat is cooked to your liking.  Remove the fork and place it on your plate.  Use your dining fork to slide the meat off the fondue fork.  Then use your regular fork to dip the meat in the sauce as desired.  Then eat using your regular dining fork.

The Bread

A baguette works very well although any crusty French or Italian style breads will do.   When you slice the bread make sure that each piece includes a bit of the crust. This crust helps keep the bread on the fork after it is  placed in the cheese.

Other Fondue Styles

Broth or Bouillon
Another style of fondue is a simple vegetable broth or bouillon.  This makes a lighter, less caloric meal than the cheese or hot oil versions.   Potatoes as well as other vegetables or small bits of seafood are cooked in the simmering pot of broth.

Dessert Fondue
Dessert fondues became very popular in the 1970's.  Chocolate fondue was a favorite used for dipping ripe fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and tangerines.   Some recipes suggest dipping some cubes of angel food cake as well.  Other dessert fondues include caramel, coconut and marshmallow.

Fonduta is an Italian dish similar to Fondue made with Fontina cheese and egg yolks.

Fondue Bourguignonne
Also referred to as Beef Fondue.  A mixture of half butter and half cooking oil is combined and heated in a castiron or enamel fondue pot.  Small pieces of lean meat and vegetables are speared and cooked in the hot oil. It is particularly important to use a stable fondue pot for this type of fondue.

Bagna Cauda
This is a wonderful dish from the Piedmonte region of Italy. The name comes from bagno caldo which means "hot bath".  It is made by combining butter, olive oil, garlic and anchovies.  The mixture is heated and guests use wooden skewers or fondue forks to spear a variety of fresh vegetables which are dipped and warmed.

This is a Dutch dish (cheese dip) similar to the Italian style fondue (fonduta).

Raclette is actually cheese from Switzerland made from cow’s milk and is slightly nutty in flavor,  similar to gruyère. Raclette, the dish is served tableside. It is a large half or whole wheel of cheese, exposed to heat and and scraped off as it melts. The word raclette  comes from racler , French for "to scrape." The dish is served as a meal with boiled potatoes, dark bread and cornichons (pickles).

Featured Recipe

Traditional Fondue for Four servings

The recipe  uses a combination of Vacherin Fribourgeois and slightly aged Gruyère. You could use whatever is available. Avoid a dry, well-aged cheese as they tend to be rather salty. We use cheeses that are less than one year old.

The bread we use is dense white bread with a nice crust. Whatever you use, it should be thick-cut and on the drier side but not crispy. When the fondue is finished, the hardened cheese at the bottom of the pot, called la religieuse is considered the reward for finishing it—it’s considered the reward for getting through it!

Step  1;

1/2 to 2 cups (375ml-500ml) dry white wine

 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

 2 teaspoons potato starch or cornstarch

Step 2

1 1/2 pounds (700g) mixed grated cheese, such as Gruyère and Emmenthal (see headnote & note)

optional: 1 to 2 teaspoons kirsch

Method ….

Step  1. In a sturdy pot, combine items in Note 1 (375ml white wine, the garlic and the starch)

Step 2. Add the grated cheese and cook over moderately-high heat, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and smooth.  

Step 3. If the mixture is too thick, add up to 1/2 cup (125ml) more white wine until its texture is to your liking. If you wish, add the kirsch.

Step 4. Serve warm, preferably in a fondue pot.

Bouillabaisse Fondue
Sunset Magazine, February, 2000

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes
NOTES: Use a cooking pan, metal chafing dish without the water bath jacket, a metal fondue pan, or an electric fondue pan with heat turned to high.

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

12 to 18 red thin-skinned potatoes (1 1/2 in. wide), scrubbed
1/2 pound boned, skinned firm-flesh fish such as halibut
1/2 pound sea scallops
1/2 pound shrimp (31 to 40 per lb.), shelled and deveined
Bouillabaisse broth (recipe follows)
Rouille (recipe follows)
Croutons (recipe follows)

1. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 quart water to a boil. Add potatoes. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain; keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, rinse fish, scallops, and shrimp; pat dry. Cut fish into 1/4-inch thick slices about 2 inches long. Cut scallops crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut shrimp in half lengthwise. Arrange fish, scallops, and shrimp on a flat dish.

Bouillabaisse Broth

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes
NOTES: If making up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill.
MAKES: About 6 cups; 4 to 6 servings

In a 2 1/2- to 3-quart pan over medium-high heat, frequently stir 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped fennel, and 3 peeled, pressed doves garlic until onion is limp, about 5 minutes. Add 5 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth, 1 cup dry white wine, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/16 teaspoon powdered saffron or 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are soft when pressed, about 15 minutes. Measure broth; if less than 6 cups, add more fat-skimmed chicken broth or water.


PREP TIME: About 5 minutes
NOTES: If making up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill.
MAKES: About 1 cup

In a small bowl, mix 1 cup reduced-fat or regular mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne.


PREP AND COOK TIME: About 25 minutes
NOTES: If making up to 1 day ahead, store airtight at room temperature.
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

Slice 1 baguette (1/2 lb.) diagonally 1/4 inch thick. Arrange slices in a single layer on a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Brush with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Bake in a 400[degrees] oven until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm or cool.