Aussie Alps Cheese Fondue
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Inspired by the traditional European mountain dish, here are a few options to make a cheese fondue from scratch in the Australian high country.
Even though it means melted, “fondue” is more than melted cheese. It is an old mountain cheese dish that originates from the Swiss and French Alps. Fondue is mainly made with a combination of alpine eye cheese mixed with white wine. The concept of the fondue feast was popularised in North America in the 50’s. I was very young when introduced to this and I probably fell into the pot because I just love all nutty flavoured cheeses with holes (and all other cheese types…). As there are no commercial fondue mixes available downunder, I had to learn to make it from scratch. That involved a little bit of a research that I am glad to know about now because it is easy to make and so much better than any commercial mix! The tricky part is finding the right cheeses. So far, I have only made it with some of the European ones I could buy locally. Gruyère is the best essential cheese for fondue and I recently found that some are made in Tasmania. Emmental, Comté, Masdaam and Jalsberg are also fondue suitable and available in Australia. We live in a cool climate zone rich in agriculture but sadly not much of a cheese-making region (this would be the dream, local mountain cheese, wouldn’t it?). The good news is that the other major ingredient for cheese fondue is locally cultivated and accessible where we live in Tumbarumba: high altitude white wines! Cheese fondue is traditionally served as dinner feast in a fondue pot over a tea light candle but everything can be re-invented. You can make a cocktail or small version if you don’t have the fondue set by preparing the mix in a non-stick pot and pour half the recipe in a bowl. The mix will get hard when it cools down so it’s better to taste it soon as it’s made. You can save the rest for a leftover meal. While eating cheese fondue, it is recommended to avoid drinking cold water and have hot tea or wine for better digestion. Not sure if that is a myth but I find it’s better not to take any chances and just enjoy the rest of that bottle of wine!
A CHEESE FONDUE SET SHOULD INCLUDE:
Cast iron or ceramic pot
Stand (also called réchaud)
Tea light candles (1 or 2 will do)
Fondue options (quantity for 2-3 persons, depending on the diversity of the meal)
300g of cheese, grated
Here are few options based on suitable European cheeses available in our Australian region:
• 1 cheese option: 300g Jalsberg (or Masdaam)
• 2 cheeses option: 150g Gruyère/150g Comté
• 2 cheeses option: 150g Gruyère/150g Jalsberg (or Masdaam)
• 3 cheeses option: 225g Gruyère/75g Comté/75g eye cheese (Emmental or Jalsberg)
For all options, add these ingredients:
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tsp corn flour
¾ cups crisp Riesling (or any dry white wine) *LOCAL FEATURE
A pinch of spices, here are combination options:
• Classic Swiss fondue: pepper and nutmeg
• French style special: fresh shavings of black truffle
• Fusion taste of Australia: Native bush spices that goes very well with cheese like Bush Tomato, Wattleseed or Pepperberry (mountain pepper).
Sides and dipping
Bread: generally, cheese fondue is simply tasted with baguette bread cubes with nice thick crust but also good with any country bread or sourdough. *LOCAL FEATURE
It can also be served with varieties of accompaniments like:
Fruits (grape and apple)
Steamed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprout)
Salads (on the side)
PREPARATION: Rub the pot (fondue or normal non-stick) with the garlic.
Finely chop the clove and add in the pot.
Pour in wine and warm up on a medium heat on the stove (don’t bring to the boil).
Add cheese and stir well with a wooden spoon.
When cheese is starting to melt, add corn flour and a few drops of lemon juice.
Season to taste and stir well until mixture is creamy and smooth.
Serve as a fondue meal on the stand (over tea light candle) or simply in a small bowl as a quick tapas.
Dip bread cubes in with forks and occasionally stir with the wooden spoon to avoid the cheese mixture sticking and burning in the bottom of the pot.
Leftover cheese fondue can be saved overnight in the fridge and used for a cheesy casserole.
LOCAL PRODUCE FEATURES: A good high altitude dry white wine will be best to melt the cheese into a creamy texture. The varieties of Rieslings cultivated in cool climate regions, especially from New Zealand and Australia, are distinctly crisp and will make your cheese fondue a great success. As local wine, I suggested in this recipe and photography the fabulous Johansen Wines Riesling. Unfortunately, this one is now temporarily unavailable as the New Year’s eve 2020 bushfires passed through and burnt many parts of the original vineyard, including this variety. We’ll just have to be patient until the new vines produce but any of their surviving white wine varieties will also make a great fondue. After designing the labels and rebranding in 2018, I had good tasting of them all and they are splendid! And as for bread, I recommend the Artisan Baker, So French So Fresh from Wagga Wagga. Some great bread selections are delivered to Tumbarumba IGA every Tuesday and Friday.
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