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
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!