Friday, November 9, 2012

Fondue season is upon us!

I really love when the weather starts to get cold and you can really start to feel the chill of winter. (Mind you, this is coming from a native Californian, so cold for me is below 45 degrees F.) When it starts to get rainy and stormy there's nothing I want to do more than make fondue! A nice steaming hot pot of gooey melted cheese for me is the ultimate comfort food.

As I've been dwelling on fondue all day, I decided to feature one of the cheeses that is used in traditional Swiss fondue - Gruyere. This cheese is probably the most commonly mispronounced cheese at my counter. The proper pronunciation is "groo-YEHR". Say it out loud a couple of times and it becomes less and less of a tongue twister.

For the making of Gruyere, the practice of transhumance is very important. In the Swiss dairy world transhumance consists of farmers taking their dairy cows up to higher pastures to graze during the summer and before the winter hits, bringing them back down to the valley. As the cows are up in the high pasture grazing on incredible foliage, the butterfat in their milk increases and the milk takes on the flavors of the pastures they are grazing on. This is the milk that is used to make Gruyere. For one wheel of Gruyere, they take the previous evening's milk and let it cool down overnight and then the milk from the next morning's milking is added. From there they take the milk and start the cheesemaking process. In order for the cheese to be called Gruyere, one of the requirements is that the milk cannot be pasteurized, so all true Gruyeres will be made with raw milk. Once the cheese is formed, it is soaked in a brine and then off to the cellars. In the cellars, the affineurs (experts in aging and caring for cheeses) periodically wash the outside of the cheese with a salt water solution. This helps the rind form as well as attract good bacteria (like B. linens) and repel bad bacteria. The Gruyere that we sell at my counter has been aged for over a year and has really started to develop the nice nutty, fruity flavors that are associated with Gruyere.

If you're now in the mood to make some fondue after reading about this tasty cheese, just buy equal amounts of Gruyere and Emmenthaler cheese, some nice dry white wine, some garlic and cornstarch and you're ready to rock and roll! If you're interested in learning more about fondue making, I will be holding a Fondue 101 class at my store this coming Monday 11/12 from 5-6pm. You need to sign up in advance, so call the store at 408-266-3700 and put your name on the list! I'll also be going over how to make chocolate fondue as well. Hope to see you there!

That's all of the cheesy notes I have for now. Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!