Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swiss Miss, Alpine Cheese Fondue the Swiss Way

When I lived in Switzerland and was young and foolish I did not appreciate the culinary experiences I was having in the land where God vacations. I mean He may live everywhere, as every place loves to claim to be God's country, but true as those claims may be when God needs a respite from the work He is doing I am sure that he vacations in Switzerland.

The Swiss landscape is beyond my ability to describe. It truly is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Perfect in Summer and glorious in Winter it holds all the perfection that God's creation ever wanted to have. Mountains and lakes, high Alpine pastures and lovely valleys. Cities so old some of them feel like they sprung out of the mountain rocks they are built on. In short, it is a living postcard.

The Swiss are a funny people. Secluded and cloistered for centuries away in their mountain lairs they are not immediately the warmest of folks. But I found and with few exceptions that once you breach the outer polite yet chilly exterior the Swiss are welcoming and warm and thoughtful people. Restrained in emotive embrace yet somehow endearing.

From the high Alpine pastures comes in the summertime a quality of milk from the cows there that is exceptional. After visiting a homesteading family in the mountains once I had the opportunity to experience the ancient ways of making cheese in a barn and baking wholegrain ( Vollcornbrot) bread in a wood oven tht was the way for centuries. I met this family in the farmer's market where they sold their goods and they invited me and my companion to visit them on their farm. Because we had no car this included a trip up the Alps in his truck one day after the market. And I mean a ride in the back bed of the truck! Sitting in the back of the truck as we pulled out of the town and left the valley behind I was amazed at the views as we climbed ever higher into the mountains. The main road gave way to a byway and soon I found myself on hairpin turns on a mountain road staring hundreds of feet down into the valley we had left long behind. It was glorious.

When we arrived at the farm we were greeted by the Klaus' wife Anna and their two toe headed adorable children. We got a tour and then were shown to the barns where we sampled the sweetest milk I have ever tasted right from the cows. It was incredible. They then showed us their small but very efficient cheese making hut. That was followed by a visit to the wood fired bake shop that Klaus used for his breads for the market. They grew certain ingredients on the farm themselves and got others from local farmers. It was incredible. We had a meal with them a simple fare, Bread cheese and fruits and vegetables from the garden. In truth it was one of the freshest meals I have ever had.

Fondue would be another dish I experienced through the invitation to dinner at a family's house in town where I was staying. The wonderful thing about Fondue in Switzerland is has none of the intimate romantic notions that surround it here in the US. Somehow here fondue and fondue restaurants cater themselves as the lovers mealtime, a sexy way for two people to share a meal. Not so in the land where cheese was born. It is a communal meal meant for sharing and convivial times with family and guests. The rules traditionally are simple, if the lady drops the bread in she had to wash the pot which she used to prepared the fondue, if the gentleman drops the bread in he has to wash the pot and kiss the lady! Kinda fun and I guess romantic but when it's a family around the table it's just fun good eats and if Mama doesn't have to do dishes and gets a kiss out of it so much the better.

So Fondue, is according to Wikipedia SwissFrench, and Italian dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s but its origins stem from an area that covers Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta valley).

Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to other dishes in which a food is dipped into a communal pot of hot liquid: chocolate fondue, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil.
Konrad Egli of the Chalet Swiss Restaurant is credited with introducing it as a mainstay in New York in the 1950's. He also is credited with the introduction of beef Fondue at Chalet Swiss and the  invention of chocolate Fondue which made it's appearance in the 1960's. Throughout the 50's 60's and 70's home cooks entertained with Fondue pots and were the champions of preparations table side for their dining guests. Such meals made the guests feel like they were part of the "action" and certainly Fondue was one of those meals. 
So here is a simple Swiss recipe I have from my host family in Switzerland I have carried around all these years. As you entertain this holiday season think about Fondue as a wonderful way to share a meal with friends and loved ones. 

Easy and Authentic Swiss Fondue
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Gruyère cheese
  • 1 triangle double cream (laughing cow) cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy (Kirsch)
  • Cubed French bread, ham and vegetables 

  1. Rub garlic clove into the inside of the fondue pot. Bring wine and lemon juice to a low boil in a heavy saucepan; add cheeses, pepper, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and cherry brandy. Stir mixture into cheese; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a fondue pot, and keep warm. Serve with cubed bread, cubed ham, mushrooms, and steamed brussel sprout halves.
  3. Enjoy Ya'll!!


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