fondue season

image credit: J.R. Freeman & Co. Ltd./EB Inc. via Encyclopedia Britanica onlinethe wheel of gruyere that i found in the produce section during our last trip to whole foods reminds me that it’s fondue season, which reminds me that once upon a time i had resolved to write more about food on this blog, and reminds me of the number of times people asked me what cheeses they needed for fondue.

it’s easy.  the fairly standard, traditional formula for fondue consists of three cheeses:

appenzeller
emmentaler
gruyere

you take roughly equal parts of each, grate them into a fondue pot, add some wine, and voila, fondue. the proportions really depend on how much you want to make.  probably a half pound of each would suit two people.  the thing about fondue, though, is that the fun part is making it your own, or using variations, or making it to taste.  for example, appenzeller is one of those really foot-stinky cheeses; a hard swiss cheese you probably wouldn’t want to eat by itself.  for a milder flavor, you could substitute raclette or jarlsberg and still be pretty authentic.

image via Wiki Commonsthis time of year is also raclette season, and i remember distinctly not being able to keep raclette in stock between thanksgiving and sundance (which is right about now-ish) when i worked the cheese department in park city.  i’ve never had raclette, as in, served as raclette — a specific swiss dish — but my understanding of it is that it’s traditionally a sort of peasant food (although now it’s all gourmet), where you take a specific type of frying pan (well, specific for the 20th century gourmet version, that is — probably originally it was whatever was lying around) and melt the raclette in it.  the idea is that it’s supposed to cooked until brown.  like fondue, you dip bread and assorted meats in it.

fondue is a great way to warm up the cold months and everyone loves fondue, making it a hit a both sports- and non-sports related holiday and/or family and/or other festivities.  i particularly like fondue as a romantic valentines day thing.

the only problem with fondue, of course, is that most of us are, in some way, lactose intolerant, meaning that much cheese is bound to wreak havoc on our intestines later.  for those of you concerned about that, i’d like to direct your attention to cypress grove creamery or any number of spanish cheeses (manchego, mahon, drunken goat, murcia curado (aka “naked goat”), etc).  both cypress grove and various spanish cheeses have both aged and not-so-aged varieties, so you could probably concoct a fairly decent lactose-free fondue (because sheep and goat’s milk do not contain lactose — rather, they contain lactase , a related enzyme that is more closely related to what our stomachs produce naturally, meaning it doesn’t cause the same problems).  some combination with midnight moon and lamb chopper sounds yummy to me…