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"How can I keep my cheese fondue from clumping?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

I am planning to make cheese fondue over the holidays. Last year, it simply wouldn't blend, and I ended up with a tough wad of cheese and a soupy broth. Please give me some tips.

Melanie Chin
Winnipeg, Manitoba


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Hi Melanie,

Begin with well-aged, firm natural cheese because it blends more easily than mild cheese. As cheese ripens, the protein in the curd is more easily dispersed. Also, the riper the cheese, the higher the temperature it can tolerate as it melts.

Wine is also an important ingredient because its acids encourage the softening of cheese. In addition, wine has a lower boiling point than water, allowing the cheese to melt at a lower temperature and helping prevent it from becoming stringy. (The wine you use doesn’t have to be expensive.)
When cheese gets too hot, its protein, called casein, can coagulate into a toughened mass, squeezing out liquid and fat. This is probably what happened with your fondue last year. Pots specially designed for cheese fondue insulate the cheese from the heat. For the best results, heat the wine until little bubbles appear, then add grated or coarsely cut cheese by the handful. Stir constantly to coax the cheese and wine to blend, and don't let the mixture boil.

Adding a little cornstarch also helps bind the cheese with the liquid. Either add 1 tablespoon for each pound of grated cheese at the beginning or blend 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in with a little kirsch once the cheese is melted.

Since fondue toughens as it sits, don't make it wait. And do savor that first bite. It's a lovely reminder of why this fabulous dish has been enjoyed for so long!

Happy New Year!
Anne and Sue


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