The traditional cheese fondue recipe can be flavored with many different herbs or spices according to your own taste. Here are a few suggestions you might want to try.
Dry Mustard or Grey Poupon Mustard – 1/2 teaspoon gives a nice zing
Nutmeg – 1 pinch adds an earthy, nutty flavor
White Pepper – 3-4 squeezes from a pepper mill are ideal
Onion – If you really like onion, try this! In a fry pan, saute 1/4 cup onions until they begin to carmelize. Lower your heat and add your wine and lemon mixture for 2 minutes. Strain out the onions and pour out your wine mixture into your fondue pot. Begin adding your cheese as usual. Or, add a pinch of onion powder to your mixture.
Garlic - Use fresh garlic on the inside of your pot before adding your cheese, or add a pinch of powdered garlic to your cheese for added flavor. You can also add 1 diced clove of fresh garlic to your sauted onion and wine mixture then strain before transfering to your fondue pot.
Italian spices and tomato paste – Mix in 1 teaspoon of italian spices with 3-4 tablespoons of tomate paste for a nice italian flavor. Try adding the onion and garlic mixture too!
Kirsch (also known as kirschwasser, “cherry water”) is actually a Swiss cherry firewater: clear and dry-tasting — not a “cherry brandy”, which is sweet. Most good liquor stores should carry kirsch, at least one of the US brands like Hiram Walker or Bols. While kirsch lovers — and there are many — will argue about favorite brands and the virtues of the new designer kirschwassers now popping up, probably the best readily available Kirsch is the Swiss brand Dettling. Another good one (possibly more widely available) is Etter. (If you visit the Etter website, it is a commercial one. Just a reminder that this isn’t an endorsement of them — we’re just pointing out where they are. The Etter home site unfortunately doesn’t seem to have an English-language side.)
By the way, if you’re concerned about the alcohol in the kirschwasser don’t worry. It will boil off during the process of cooking the fondue. The purpose of the kirsch is both for flavoring and to make the fondue more digestible, which can be an issue when you’re eating something with so much cheese in it.
Traditional “Shot in the Middle”
Another tradition: the “coupe d’midi”, or “shot in the middle”, for when you get full: a thimbleful of Kirsch, knocked straight back in the middle of the meal, usually magically produces more room if you’re feeling too full. Don’t ask us how this works…it just does.
Heating Cheese Fondue
Cheese fondue needs to be kept below the boiling point but above the melting point. It is best to warm the cheese fondue pot on a stove then transfer it to the tabletop heat source to keep it warm. As you slowly add your cheese mixture into the wine mixture, be sure to stir slowly in a zig zag pattern and prevent the cheese from boiling. You only need the pot hot enough to melt the cheese, not boil it. Once you have the cheese at the desired consistancy, transfer it to the table.
Most cheese fondues should be served at 120 degrees to properly melt the cheese while preventing it from burning. Ideally you want to keep it warm on the lowest temperature possible to avoid scorching the cheese. Alcohol burners with fondue fuel gel is ideal for this purpose when using a thick based ceramic pot. You may also opt to use an electric pot or even a small crock pot set on a very low temperature.
TIP: If pre-heating on a stove, a double broiler is a great way to prevent the cheese on the bottom from scorching.
Is Your Cheese Too Thick, or Too Thin?
If your cheese fondue gets too thick, increase the heat slightly and add a splash of dry white wine or a squeeze of lemon juice. If it is too thin, decrease your heat slightly and add more shredded cheese tossed with cornstarch to your mixture. Avoid adding water to thin your fondue since it changes the consistancy.
Is Your Cheese Mixture Separating?
The purpose of cornstarch is to keep the cheese in suspension and prevent the cheese and wine from seperating. If you see your cheese mixture separating, then add small amounts of cornstarch and stir.
Is Your Cheese Stringy?
One of the most important factors in getting a smooth cheese fondue is the quality of your cheese. Processed cheese will be unstable and inconsistant. Be sure to use a good Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese since they were made to melt properly. If you are still struggling with your cheese, here is a helpful tip. Be sure to keep your heat low and consistant. Sudden changes in temperature will cause the cheese to ball up or become stringy.
How to Multiply Your Recipe
When doubling or tripling your recipe there is not as much surface area to allow for evaporation of your liquids, so be careful not to double everything. For doubling try this: Multiply your wine by 2, then subtract 1/4 to 1/3. For triple, multiply your wine by 3, then subtract 1/3 to 1/2. You can always add more if needed.
Preparing the Pot
Before you use a new unglazed clay pot it needs to be seasoned with a mixture of milk and water cooked in it over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. A glazed ceramic or enameled cast iron pot can be used without seasoning it first.
Real garlic is used with traditional cheese fondues to prep the pot and add flavor to the cheese. You will need to rub the inside of the pot thoroughly with a cut clove of garlic. Let the garlic sit until the inside of the pot becomes sticky to the touch before you add your cheese fondue. Use less or more depending on how much flavor you prefer.
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Cheese fondue pots are typically made of earthenware or ceramic. Earthenware or unglazed clay pots may need to be “seasoned” to break them in before use, but glazed ceramic pots do not need this done.
The Cheese Fondue Pot
If you are in Switzerland, only a wide-mouth earthenware clay pot or cast iron pot will do for cheese fondue. (Shown in picture) Because fondue was originally a peasants dish, fondue pots were not very fancy. They usually had a thick base with a wide open top to allow for better distribution of heat and easy access for dipping and stirring. But here in America, you will find hundreds of variations that will work fine if you can keep the heat low enough.
When shopping for a cheese fondue pot, look for these things:
1) The pot should be thick on the bottom with a sturdy handle.
2) The stand should be sturdy and hold the pot securely.
3) Ideally, the heat source should be adjustable.
4) Forks should have 2 or 3 prongs with long stems and wooden handles for safe handling. Each handle should have a different color to identify who’s fork belongs to whom.
Alcohol burners are meant to be used with fondue fuel (Sold at specialty food stores.) or denatured alcohol ONLY! (You can find it at any hardware store.) If using denatured alcohol, your burner will come with an insert that looks like a strainer. It goes inside the burner and keeps your flame under control while burning. If you are using the fondue fuel gel, you will not need the insert since the gel itself helps to control the rate at which it will burn.
- Fill your alcohol burner with 3 ounces of fuel. Using more is not recommended and may cause excessive flames. You can plan on 3 ounces of fuel burning approximately 60-90 minutes, depending on how high you set your flame. You can use 2 ounces of fuel if you plan on less time.
- Be careful to wipe off the edges of the burner if any alcohol spilled on them before you set it on its stand.
- Use a match to light the fuel at the center of the burner. Do not use a lighter since this can be very dangerous. Also, never tip the burner to ignite! You might cause fuel to leak and catch your table on fire!
- Once the fuel is lit, use the adjustable handle to control the size of the flame. Open more holes to make the flames higher. Close the holes to lower the flames or snuff out the flame with the lid if it is out of control.
- If your burner is running out of fuel, DO NOT attempt to add more fuel while the burner is lit. Use the burner lid to extinguish the flame completely and allow the burner to cool for a few minutes before re-fueling.
SAFETY: Be sure to protect your table from the heat of the flame by putting your pot on a stable surface with a heat pad, wooden cutting board, or ceramic tile under it.
Sterno Canned Fuel
Sterno or canned fuel is an easy and convenient alternative heat source, but may not offer you the control you need for keeping the temperature low for cheese. If you do choose to use a canned fuel, be sure that your pot sits up high on the base above the flame to avoid scorching. Also note that canned fuel comes in many different forms and sizes. The smaller cans with gel seem to be the best option.
Mini Ceramic Cup with Tealight Candles
If you are planning a small appetizer for two before your meal, then a tealight candle with mini ceramic cup should work great. Be careful to place it on top of a wooden cutting board or another safe surface to avoid burning your table or cloth.
Today’s electric pots come in a huge variety and are great for controlling the temperature of your fondue beautifully. Although you can use a stainless steel electric set, for cheese I prefer using an earthenware or cast iron set as shown to the left. The thicker pot helps heat to distribute more evenly and keeps the cheese from scorching on the bottom.
Great for traveling to parties with your favorite cheese fondue! Just set the temperature on low and your cheese will be perfect!
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Preparing the Pot (Seasoning, garlic)