This Sunday, and every 11th April, is Fondue Day! In this article, we’re going to look at the history of fondue, tell you what nuns have to do with it and share a recipe and regional variations with you .
While not as fashionable as it once was, cheese fondue is a delicious way to warm up in the Winter months.
WHAT IS FONDUE?
Fondue is a dish of melted cheeses and wine into which bread (and sometimes other food items) is dipped.
WHAT DOES THE WORD FONDUE MEAN?
The word fondue is the feminine passive past participle of the French verb fondre which means ‘to melt’. Here is it used as a noun. So, it basically means “melted”.
WHERE DID FONDUE ORIGINATE?
This is a difficult question with no clear answer but it would seem fondue is most likely to have originated in French speaking Switzerland.
WHEN DID FONDUE ORIGINATE?
Just as defining where fondue originates is difficult, as is determining when it first came to being.
It first appeared in a recipe book in the 17th century where it spoke of cooking cheese with wine. However, cheese fondue has been described as early as Homer’s Iliad from around 800 to 725BC! Back then it was referred to as a mixture of goat’s cheese, wine and flour.
But the fondue that we know today that is melted cheese and wine in a pot over a flame dates back to the late 1800s in the Rhône-Alpes region near the French/ Switzerland Geneva border.
The Swiss love fondue so much that in 1930, the Swiss Cheese Union declared fondue the country’s national dish.
DON’T LOSE YOUR BREAD!
There’s an unwritten rule of cheese fondue: whoever drops their bread in the pot pays the bill.
FRENCH FONDUE VARIATIONS
Some French regions have their own take on cheese fondue and will use a different mixture of cheeses to perfect it.
- Auvergnate: Saint-Nectaire, Cantal and Fourme d’Ambert;
- Jurassienne: Mature or mild Comté; and
- Savoyarde: Comté, Beaufort and one or two other local cheese like Reblochon, Abondance, or French equivalent of Gruyère.
SWISS FONDUE VARIATIONS
With cheese fondue being the national dish in Switzerland, there are also many different variations including:
- Fribourgeoise- potatoes are dipped instead of bread and no wine is used in the fondue;
- Appenzeller -cream is added to the fondue (because it’s not rich and decadent enough!)
- Tomato – crushed tomatoes are added to the cheese and wine
- Spicy- red and green capsicums and chilli is added
- Mushroom- mushrooms are added.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DIP INTO THE FONDUE?
While bread is the traditional choice, there are many different options, including:
- apples -like Granny Smith cut into cubes which makes them easier to keep on your fork.
- baby Potatoes.
- pickles such as cornichons
FONDUE VOCABULARY AND ABOUT THOSE NUNS
Caquelon – the communal pot in which fondue is served (caquelon or fondue pot)
Réchaud – the portable stove over which the fondue is prepared (heated with a candle or spirit lamp)
Religieuse – French word for “nun” refers to the thin crust of toasted (but not burnt) cheese at the bottom of the caquelon which has a cracker-like texture and is more often than not, removed and eaten.
HOW TO MAKE FONDUE AT HOME FOR FONDUE DAY
- Rub the caquelon with a cut garlic clove,
- Add white wine and heat with cornstarch,
- Add grated cheeses (Swiss versions will always have Gruyere and often Emmentaler – French versions will often have a French equivalent of Gruyere but also comte or other cheeses).
- Keep at a steady heat but don’t let it burn!
If the fondue is too thick, add more white wine.
If the fondue starts to curdle, add more wine (or a little lemon juice)
Basically, if in doubt, add more wine!
What’s your favourite cheese to put into fondue? Happy Fondue Day!
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