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The ingredients

The cheeses
There are just as many fondue recipes as fondue cooks! So if most cooks agree on the other ingredients, all the difference is in the choice of the cheeses.

Moreover, the recipe evolves over time, according to trends and according to cheese tastes. Nowadays, the ferments used to make most cheeses are controlled by competent federal offices (you have to believe it since that's what they call themselves!), which has essentially standardized tastes and lowered the character of cheeses.

My parents made fondue moitié-moitié (half-half), with half Emmental (called swiss cheese in America, the one with the holes), half Gruyere, as for me, after lots of experimenting, I came up with a mix of 50% Gruyere and 50% Vacherin Fribourgeois. It is interesting to note that this is also the recipe most often encountered with fondues afficionados. I suggest for your first fondues to follow my advice, but I certainly invite you to try other versions after that.



Gruyere

There are different kinds of Gruyeres: mild, half-salt and salty (these are mostly names as the salty one is not all that salty). In each of these categories, the Gruyere can be young, or aged to different degrees (which gives it a more pronounced taste). Finally one can find "alpages" Gruyeres (mountain Gruyeres) which are often better, probably due to the artisanal way they are made.

a nice piece of Gruyere cheese
Gruyere
another view better showing the label
Gruyere



Vacherin Fribourgeois (Vacherin from the Fribourg region)

Again there are different varieties of Vacherin Fribourgeois, with more or less pronounced taste, according to their degree of maturation.

a nice piece of vacherin Fribourgeois
Vacherin Fribourgeois
another view of the vacherin Fribourgeois better showing the label
Vacherin Fribourgeois



Ready mixes

Cheese stores sell cheese mixes grated, ready for fondue. Some of these mixes not only have the cheese but also the required quantity of corn starch (see previous page - The starch).

I tried many such mixes, and they usually result in fondues between acceptable and good, but in any case not as good as those made from cheeses selected in good retail stores.

2 pieces of cheese to prepare fondue for 5 persons
Cheese for 5, Gruyere & Vacherin Fribourgeois
piece of Appenzeller - Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org
Appenzeller



Ready made fondues

Unless you plan an expedition in Antartica, or on a desert island, try to avoid! I tried a few and they were not all that good. See Evaluation of ready made fondues.



Choosing a Gruyere.

Often, out of Switzerland you won't have a choice, but the secret is simply to taste it. Choose a Gruyere "mi-salé - half-salt) (mild has no taste). Refuse old Gruyeres (too full bodied) they are not good for fondue. You can estimate the age of a cheese by observing its crust. If it is thin and regular, it is rather young. the crust becomes thicker and irregular with age.

Ask to taste the Gruyeres available, and choose a cheese slightly salty, which leaves a good taste in the mouth, a little creamy taste without being overpowering. Experience will be acquired quickly.



Choosing a Vacherin Fribourgois

Here too tasting is the way to go. Do not accept a cheese with too pronounced a taste. The Vacherin Fribourgois brings the creamy taste to fondue, and you should really taste this in the cheese.

It could be in some countries that you have difficulty finding Vacherin Fribourgois. In this case, I use Fontina or Appenzeller (young).

  • a nice piece of Gruyere cheese
    Gruyerea nice piece of Gruyere cheeseGruyere
  • another view better showing the label
    Gruyereanother view better showing the labelGruyere
  • a nice piece of vacherin Fribourgeois
    Vacherin Fribourgeoisa nice piece of vacherin FribourgeoisVacherin Fribourgeois
  • another view of the vacherin Fribourgeois better showing the label
    Vacherin Fribourgeoisanother view of the vacherin Fribourgeois better showing the labelVacherin Fribourgeois
  • 2 pieces of cheese to prepare fondue for 5 persons
    Cheese for 5, Gruyere & Vacherin Fribourgeois2 pieces of cheese to prepare fondue for 5 personsCheese for 5, Gruyere & Vacherin Fribourgeois
  • piece of Appenzeller - Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org
    Appenzellerpiece of Appenzeller - Photo courtesy PDPhoto.orgAppenzeller