How to Fondue

fondue

Fondue is the perfect decadent treat for a cold winter’s night, traditionally eaten in mountainous regions where a good cheesy meal could help ward against the snow and ice. A lot of people come to me baffled by how exactly to make a fondue, so I wanted to share my personal favorite recipe while we’re in peak fondue season. Fondue is usually made from primarily alpine style cheeses, such as gruyere or comte. The buttery, floral flavor of these easy-to-melt cheeses make for a delectable pot of fondue.

The first thing you need for fondue is a base cheese; something not too flavorful (I like to use emmental) to create a base for your fondue without overpowering the other cheeses. Once you have your base cheese, you can start being a little more creative in cheese choice. For a traditional style fondue, I usually add Pleasant Ridge Reserve, from Uplands Dairy in Wisconsin, as well as Gran Cru Gruyere, from Roth Kase. Both of these are alpine style cheeses with fuller flavor than the emmental. They add light floral, fruity notes to the fondue, but at the same time don’t make the flavor too crazy. You can also use Comte or Beaufort as your two more flavorful cheeses, imported alpine style cheeses made in France and used in traditional French fondue-I just like to go local when possible!

Of course, fondue can be made with much crazier cheese combinations. It is usually important to make sure that any cheese you use melts well. Stay away from bloomy rind cheeses, which don’t melt very well, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit. I once made fondue with quadrello, a buffalo milk cheese from Italy that isn’t considered a good melting cheese. The high fat content in the buffalo milk made my fondue look a little greasy, but the taste was out of this world.

In general, I stick to this basic recipe:

4-6 oz cheese per person of:
2 parts Emmental
1 part Pleasant Ridge Reserve
1 part Gran Cru Gruyere (or other gruyere)

-before beginning, grate all of your cheese, then rub the fondue pot with whole garlic cloves, then chop the garlic up and place it in the pot with a splash of dry white wine
-gradually add the grated cheese, heating and stirring as you go along
-add a little more wine if the cheese starts to get too thick, but be careful to add only a tiny bit at a time!

I like to cut up some crusty bread, grab some cornichons (a traditional French fondue companion), and then steam a little broccoli to dip in my fondue.

If you’re still nervous about making the right fondue, ask your local cheesemonger to help you find the perfect cheeses!

Rush Creek Reserve

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Rush Creek Reserve is a star in the cheese world, a deliciously creamy (and highly contested) cheese whose name is known by anyone and everyone who keeps up on great food and food legislation in the United States. This cheese, made by Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, became a superstar because of its decadently creative flavor profile. Rush Creek Reserve is made only of the winter milk from cows at Uplands Dairy. The difference between summer and winter milk is an important distinction because the milk’s flavor changes significantly as the cows diet shifts from grass, in the summer, to hay, in the winter. The summer milk at Uplands is used in Pleasant Ridge Reserve, giving that cheese a more floral flavor, while Rush Creek Reserve has the more dense, rich flavor that often comes with winter milk cheeses.

Rush Creek Reserve is a young, raw milk cheese wrapped in spruce bark, giving the cheese a slightly woody flavor. You eat each ¾ pound wheel of Rush Creek by prying off the top of the wheel so you can dig into the gooey center with a knife (or spoon…). The paste has a strongly earthy, woody, and almost meaty flavor with a slightly sweet note. The luscious cheese is incredible smeared on a piece of crusty baguette, paired with dried figs and walnuts, or simply eaten alone.

In the last year, however, Rush Creek Reserve has garnered a different type of attention because of the stand made by its producer, Andy Hatch. Due to unclear FDA regulations on the legality of aging soft raw milk cheeses on wooden boards, Andy Hatch decided to stop making Rush Creek Reserve in 2014, a huge blow to the cheese world. His worry was that, with FDA regulations being so shifty and unsure, Rush Creek could end up being illegal to sell after it was produced, losing a lot of money for Uplands Cheese. Andy Hatch’s stand highlighted the importance of clear FDA regulations for small cheese producers, while also beginning a more public conversation on the importance of FDA support of small cheese production in the United States.

Although we went one year without Rush Creek Reserve, it all paid off when the FDA responded by making regulations much more clear. This year the delectable Rush Creek Reserve is once again being made and is available to the public–not to worry, you didn’t miss out! You can order directly from the producer, or from a number of cheese stores, but be sure to order in advance; most wheels are being sold before they even arrive at distributors, so don’t expect to be able to walk into your local cheese store and find one!