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It's basically cheese and white wine, with a few other things thrown in for flavour and to stop the mixture seperating.
Recipe (serves 6 fairly hungry people)
- Bread with a hard crust - say about 180cm of baguette, or a big crusty loaf. The better the ratio of crust to bread the better. Older bread is better than fresh bread as it's less squishy.
- Cheese - About 1kg. Grate it, or cut into 2cm cubes. (Alternative measure - enough to 3/4 fill the pot when cubed)
- White wine - 50Cl or about 2/3 of bottle (or enough to 1/3 fill the pot)
- 1 clove Garlic
- Couple of shot glass's worth of Kirsch
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon Cornstarch/Cornflour (the very fine stuff, not cornmeal!)
- Freshly ground Pepper and Nutmeg to taste
- Cut the bread into cubes. Better to do this as early as possible, as slightly dry bread is better.
- Put the wine in the pot. Add the lemon juice, and the crushed garlic.
- Put the pot on the stove (high heat).
- Mix cornstarch and Kirsch together (should be pourable - if not, add more Kirsch).
- Wait until the wine is close to simmering. Reduce heat so it doesn't boil.
- Add the cheese a handfull at a time, stirring in a zig-zag motion to stop it forming into one big ball!
- Pour in the cornstarch and Kirsch mixture.
- Keep warming and stirring till smooth (this is the bit that often defeats me).
- Light the burner.
- Move the very hot pot from the stove to the burner without pouring it over guests, pets etc.
I used Soave last time as it's quite dry (and cheap). I've heard that Swiss Fendant is good too.
I normally use 1/2 Emmental and 1/2 Gruyer. Other's recommend 2/3 Gruyer to 1/3 Emmental; 1/3 Gruyer, 1/3 Emmental, 1/3 Bergkase . I've also seen Comte, Cantal, Beaufort, Fontina, Alpenzeller_and _Vacherin mentions for that final third. Some people even use beer and cheddar!
Tips and Variations
Rather than adding cornstarch mixed with the Kirsch, sprinkle it all over the grated cheese. You could put the cheese in a big bag and shake with the flour to get it even.
Next time I'm going to try adding the cornstarch to the wine right at the beginning.
The starch helps emulsify the cheese / wine mixture, as does the alcohol. Apparently, adding Creme Fraiche can also help prevent the fondue seperating into a liquid and solid part. The acid in the wine and lemon juice stop the protein in the cheese clumping together.
If it does separate out, I've read you can take it back to the stove and add some more wine/cornflour and whisk it a lot.
I've heard that leaving the grated cheese exposed to the air for a while can help dry it out and make the fondue work better.
Using the lowest possible heat when melting in the cheese is meant to help keep the mixture smooth too. If you get it too hot, it may seperate out.
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