The term fondue was derived from the French word 'fondre' meaning 'to melt'. The dish is presented in an earthenware pot and is positioned above a small burner to keep it warm. The pot holds a warm semi-liquid sauce made of cheese mix. Diners dip small pieces of food like bread held in forks into the pot.
Fondue is warmed using either alcohol burners or tea lights. Though a variety of fondues are made, cheese fondue is the most popular among the lot. Fondue is consumed by piercing small cubes of French bread with a long fork and dipping it into the warm mixture.
Cheese and bread were the staple food for Swiss nationals for a very long time. They prepared cheese and bread during summer and fall and stored it for the winter. As a result the bread became hard and the cheese became very thick and hard during winter. This cheese was mixed with wine and heated until it became a soft and thick sauce.
This was named fondue and this dish became a favorite with the people of Switzerland. During winter people would gather around a pot of melted cheese and dip their hard bread into the pot of warm cheese. American tourists who visited Switzerland introduced fondue in the United States in the 1960's.
There are many varieties of fondue and each one of them is prepared with a special combination of cheese, wine and seasoning. This combination varies from place to place and is usually prepared as per the tradition of that particular region. Fondue has at least two types of cheese that are melted along with wine and a little flour and is served from a pot called the 'caquelon'. The two types of cheese that are commonly used in Swiss style fondue are the Emmentaler and Gruyere.
To prepare fondue, the caquelon is rubbed with cut garlic clove, after this a small amount of potato/ corn starch or corn flour is added. This flour is diluted with white wine, kirsch brandy, beer or black tea is added. Usually 100 ml of white wine is added to 200 g of hard (Gruyere) and semi hard cheeses (Emmentaler). The mixture should be blended well as it gets warmed up in the caquelon. The temperature should be right to keep the fondue smooth and liquid.
Conventional Swiss fondue recipe
Emmentaler cheese (rind removed) – ½ lb, grated
Gruyere cheese (rind removed) - ½ lb, grated
Dry white wine – 1 cup
Cornstarch – 31/2 tsp
Garlic – 1 clove
Kirsch (optional) – 1 tbsp
Fresh lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Pepper – to taste
Nutmeg – to taste
Rub the medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan with the garlic clove. Over medium heat add the wine and the lime juice and bring the mixture to a boil. In a medium sized bowl, blend the Emmentaler cheese and Gruyere cheese along with corn starch and toss. Mix the cheese blend with the wine little by little and ensure that the previous handful melts before you add a fresh handful of cheese mixture.
Let the fondue bubble but be careful not to boil it. Season with pepper and nutmeg and add the kirsch. Transfer content to a caquelon and keep it warm on an alcohol burner.
Fondue is traditionally made with cheese but can be made with chocolate too. Chocolate fondue is a wonderful idea for a desert. People love chocolate fondue for its sugary syrup and for its versatility as it can be combined with many other varieties of food. Items that form a perfect dip food for chocolate fondue are fruits and marshmallows. Consider bananas, strawberries, apples, mango, peaches, cherry, pineapple, muffins, cheese cake, pound cake and angel food cake. You can make exciting variations to the chocolate fondue with orange flavor or mint liqueur.
Chocolate fondue recipe
Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate – 12 ounces, finely chopped
Heavy cream – ¾ cup
Cognac/ liquor/brandy – 1 tbsp
Heat a medium size saucepan and simmer cream in it. Reduce the heat and add the chocolate, leave it to soften well and stir in the cognac/liquor/brandy and whip until smooth. Place the contents on a fondue pot and keep the fondue warm by using a burner.
Chocolate fondue fountain
Fondue fountains fit in perfectly in places or events that attract a huge crowd. In such places providing fondue pots becomes impossible. This is when chocolate fondue fountains come to the rescue of the hosts. Chocolate fondue is best presented through chocolate fondue fountains. Chocolate is heated until it becomes liquid and the heated liquid chocolate pours out of the fountain. The chocolate spills out beautifully thus creating an alluring effect.
The chocolate fondue fountain is generally one or two layered and looks much like a wedding cake. The dip food is usually kept in sliced pieces so that it is easy for the guest to hold it with a fork against the fountain and coat it with chocolate. Smaller versions of these chocolate fondue fountains are available that can be easily used at home. Chocolate is melted and poured along with vegetable oil in the reservoir of the appliance. The fountain is ready to work once the device is switched on.
The conventional fondue pot (caquelon) is made from heavy earthenware. These pots are at times made from enameled iron or glazed ceramic. It is mandatory that the material used to make the pot be heavy so that there will be equal distribution and preservation of heat. Fondue is heated in the caquelon over low to medium heat. It is kept on the table over an alcohol burner or hot plate.
In the 1970's cheese fondue was very popular. The cheese used to prepare fondue should be aged enough and should also be moist enough to make a perfect sauce. Remember not to heat the cheese further than its melting point as it will clump up. The cheese balls up as the fat gets separated from the proteins. If the cheese gets too cold before serving, it tends to get hard and tough. Flavor your cheese fondue with fresh herbs, tomato paste, minced onions or roasted garlic. Try cider or champagne instead of wine in the recipes for cheese fondue.
Cheese fondue recipe
Herb and goat cheese fondue
Cream cheese – 8 ounces, finely cubed
Goat cheese – 8 ounces, rind less
Garlic – 1 clove, crushed/minced
Heavy cream – 1 cup
Fresh lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Fresh basil – 1 tbsp, minced
Fresh parsley - 1 tbsp, minced
Cornstarch – 1 1/4 tsp
Fresh chives - 1 tbsp, minced
Fresh tarragon - 1 tbsp, minced
Pepper – ground, to taste
In a thick saucepan, heat up cream and garlic until bubbles show around the edges. Put the contents on the top portion of a double boiler and set it over boiling water. Add cream cheese to the hot cream and whip until it turns smooth.
Mix goat cheese with cornstarch in a mixing bowl and mix it with the cream and beat until smooth. Add the lemon juice and herbs. Season with pepper. Transfer the contents to a fondue pot and keep it warm with a burner.
Traditional fondue pot: These pots are at times made from enameled iron or glazed ceramic. This pot is best to make cheese fondue and chocolate fondue. Burners fueled either by alcohol, butane or tea lights or electric plates are part of the fondue pots. These burners are used to keep the fondue warm. Insulated pots work best for chocolate fondue as chocolate burns easily.
Hot oil fondue pot: It is either a copper or enameled pot and is best suited to cook hot oil fondue i.e. meat fondue. This type of pot absorbs the heat and in turn keeps the cooking oil hot. Go in for a pan with high sides and narrow neck to prevent spattering of oil.
Fondue forks: Fondue forks look like small spears but are lengthy enough to be dipped into a fondue pot. They are usually heat resistant. To easily differentiate between the diners' forks, it is suggested different colored tips be used for the forks. A bamboo or wood spear can also be used as a fondue fork.