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The History of Fondue

Explore the lore behind one of the most celebrated dishes in the world: fondue.

The History of Fondue


Is there anything better than gathering around a warm pot of melty, gooey fondue with your best friends and family? We certainly don’t think so. Whether you’re celebrating a successful day on the slopes with the best après ski out there or simply hungry for a good time, fondue is always the right choice.

But where does fondue come from? And what’s with all the different cheeses involved? In this guide to fondue, we’ll break down the history and the different variations of this legendary and cheesy dish.

Fondue’s Mysterious Origin Story


To most cheese lovers, the concept of fondue conjures images of lush green valleys in the Alps and giant pots of melted alpine-style cheese. What most people don’t know, however, is that fondue can be traced back centuries earlier to almost 800 BC, during the times of Homer’s Iliad. Literature from that era describes a mixture of goats or sheep’s milk cheese with wine and flour—something shockingly similar to today’s fondue!

Even though there’s no hard and fast date for when the tradition of modern fondue started, it started becoming popular during the 1800s in the French and Swiss regions of the Alps. Fondue was born out of a necessity to use aged cheeses and breads during the winter months when fresh food wasn’t as available.

By combining their cheese with flour, wine, and some herbs over an open flame, peasants were able to create a delicious and celebratory feast that would take the edge off winter’s chill. Fondue was quickly embraced by the upper class as well. After all, who doesn’t love a fondue party?

Shockingly, fondue largely remained a local tradition until the 1930s when the Swiss Cheese Union (also known as the Schweizerische Käseunion) ran a successful campaign to name fondue the national dish of Switzerland. In the following decades, fondue rode a rapid ascent to stardom, with Swiss and German immigrants bringing their fondue traditions with them to places like Wisconsin.

Fondue Fun-Fact: the name “fondue” originates from the French word fondre, “to melt.”

What is Fondue?

There are many unique types of fondue, but nearly all of them involve some combination of melted cheeses mixed with wine or brandy and herbs. This warm and delicious mixture is served in a pot that’s continually kept warm over a small flame.

Below we’ll break down three of the most common types of fondue you need to know: Swiss, French, and Italian. All of them are great options for a cheesy evening at home—and made even better by using Wisconsin Cheese.

Swiss Fondue


At its most fundamental, traditional Swiss fondue is a mix of gruyère and emmentaler cheese, flour, garlic, and a crisp, dry white wine. Other herbs can also be added like paprika, nutmeg, or cayenne.

Depending on the region of Switzerland though, the type of cheese can vary. Some areas tend to use appenzeller cheese instead of emmentaler. What’s served alongside the fondue? Crusty white bread cut into bite-size chunks for dipping, of course! Other accoutrements include cooked and diced potatoes, cornichons, and pickles.

Here in Wisconsin, Swiss fondue is the most popular type of fondue due to the large number of Swiss and German immigrants that settled in places like Green County.

Must Try Wisconsin Cheeses for Swiss Fondue

Roth’s Grand Cru: If you’ve never tried Grand Cru, we recommend that you drop whatever you’re doing and get yourself a block. Roth’s flagship alpine-style cheese is robust, full-bodied, and perfectly melty—making it a uniquely tasty and versatile cheese.

Roelli’s Little Mountain: This washed rind alpine-style cheese is what happens when a deep appreciation for appenzeller-style cheeses meets Wisconsin ingenuity. Each wheel is aged for at least six months to develop a smooth and nutty flavor that may just make you yodel.

Edelweiss Emmentaler: Made in traditional Swiss copper vats, this 3-year-aged Emmentaler will transport you to the Swiss Alps with every bite! Edelweiss Creamery is led by Master Cheesemaker, Bruce Workman, whose passion for producing handmade Swiss cheese is evident in every 180-pound wheel of Emmentaler that rolls out of his creamery.

French Fondue


Given their geographic proximity, Swiss and French fondue aren’t all that different—but there are some differences to know. The most well-known French fondue recipe is the Savoyarde fondue, which uses a mix of gruyere, comté, and beautfort cheeses. Similar to Swiss fondue, French fondue also mixes their cheese with garlic, white wine, and other herbs.

Must Try Wisconsin Cheeses for French Fondue

Uplands’ Pleasant Ridge Reserve: Meet America’s most decorated cheese. With more awards to its name than we have time to list, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a cheese is a beaufort-style cheese that should be on every cheese lover’s bucket list. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is only made in the summer months where Uplands Cheese can graze their cows on fresh grass, yielding a unique seasonal flavor that can’t be recreated any other time of year.

Italian Fondue


If you thought that Swiss and French fondue were too similar, Italian fondue might be the one for you! Italian fondue takes a dramatic turn from traditional French and Swiss varieties by only using one type of cheese: fontina.

Fontina’s flavor profile is like other swiss or alpine-style cheeses, but melts to a much lighter consistency, like mozzarella. Italian fondue also doesn’t use any wine or flour, instead opting for butter, milk, and egg yolks, resulting in a savory custard that’s uniquely delicious.

Must Try Wisconsin Cheeses for Italian Fondue

BelGioioso Fontina: Handmade by BelGioioso’s Master Cheesemakers, this fontina is aged for 60 days to develop its award-winning buttery flavor and silky-smooth texture. Melt it for a complex, impressive fondue—and get extra for a tasty sandwich the day after.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an appetizer before your fondue, try our selection of over 400 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin cheese. Share your fondue feast with us on Instagram or Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world.

 Searching high-and-low for that one Wisconsin cheese with no luck? You can get all your favorite Wisconsin cheeses delivered right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin cheese is just a click away

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