Fondue au Fromage

Fondue is a decadent “communal” meal that originated in Switzerland during the 18th century as a peasant food, created as a way to use up old cheeses and stale bread. The earliest known recipe for fondue, however, was published in Zurich in a book titled “Käss mit Wein zu kochen,” or ‘to cook cheese with wine.’ Most traditional fondue (derived from the French word fondre, meaning ‘to melt’) recipes call for two strong cheeses: Gruyère and Appenzeller (or Emmentaler). After a trip to St. Killian’s Cheese Shop in Denver’s Highland Square, I came home with three cheeses: classic Gruyère, Scharfe Maxx, and Comte. Now I don’t know if I can ever return to “traditional” again.

Gruyère, a milder, slightly nutty cheese that can often be found melted atop French onion soup, is a staple in any fondue recipe. While the cheese first adopted the name Gruyère in 1602, when the Fribourg government gave it as a gift to a subordinate of the French ambassador, it is believed to have been in existence as early as 161 AD.

I was blown away by the Scharfe Maxx, a piquant and stinky cheese with a tart and slightly spicy flavor, which is relatively new in the artisan cheese world, having been created only a decade ago. The Studer family in Canton Thurgau in northern Switzerland – the same dairy responsible for crafting Emmentaler, that they later transformed into Appenzeller – began making the bold Scharfe Maxx (scharfe means ‘sharp’) following the collapse of the Swiss Cheese Union, a governmental agency that had scoffed at innovation in cheese-making for years, only supporting the production of the traditional Swiss cheeses, Emmentaler and Gruyère.

Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, Comte is a semi-hard cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor and milky texture. Aged a minimum of six months before being sold (some are aged 18 months or more), the cheese is at its creamiest between six and twelve months. Once removed from the caves, the wheels of Comte are wrapped in one of two labels; the green label means the cheese is the best of its class, and the brown label means the cheese may have a few flaws in the form of cracks or small holes, which do not necessarily alter the cheese’s flavor, but do prevent the wheel from being rated in pristine condition. The Comte I purchased from St. Killian’s was wrapped in a green label.

Fondue is the perfect dish for a romantic evening with that special someone or to share among friends, especially if you carry on the tradition: “If a man loses his bread in the pot, he buys drinks all around, and if a woman does, she must kiss her neighbors.”*

*Sylvia Lovegren, Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, pp. 240-2

Servings: Meant to share
Active Time: 30 minutes*
Total Time: 30 minutes


1/2 lb Gruyère
1/2 lb Scharfe Maxx
1/2 lb Comte
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp garlic olive oil**
1 cup dry white wine***
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp Kirsch****
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp dry mustard
French baguette, sliced/torn into bite-sized pieces
Honeycrisp apples, cut into bite-sized pieces

Cutting board
Paring Knife
Cheese grater

*Both active and total time are around 10 minutes if you are not hand-grating your own cheese.
** Garlic infused olive oil can be found in the oil section of most grocery stores. Another method is to rub a whole garlic clove on bottom and sides of the pot.
***Recommended wine: 2011 Domaine Saint-Lannes
****Kirsch is a colorless cherry brandy fermented from the juice of the black morello cherry and can usually be found at your local independent liquor store – if you’re in Denver, check out Mondo Vino on 32nd and Lowell in Highland Square.


1. Using a sharp paring knife, remove rind from each slice of cheese. Working one piece of cheese at a time, rub back and forth along hand grater until all cheese is grated.













2. Transfer grated cheese to a large bowl and add cornstarch, stir until well-combined.






3. In fondue pot, add garlic infused olive oil. Using a paper towel, grease bottom and sides of pot.






4. Heat fondue pot to its medium setting, pour in white wine and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a low simmer.






5. Handful by handful, slowly add the cheese to the pot, DO NOT add all of the cheese at once or it will not render a smooth texture. Stir constantly in a figure-eight motion, making sure the cheese does not boil.







6. Once the cheese is melted to a creamy texture, stir in Kirsch, nutmeg, and mustard.






7. Serve with sliced French baguette and apple slices. If available, ripe pears make for a sweet pairing for this sharp fondue.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Comfort Food, Special Occasion, Vegetarian

Author:Sarah Haughey

Sarah is a Colorado native who loves exploring with her yellow lab Sadie. She blogs about travel, hiking with her dog, and cooking. And she LOVES craft beer. Follow her on Instagram @shaughey04 and Twitter @sarahhaughey4 Blogs: Outdoors: Food:


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