Fondue Through the Ages

Despite how nice the weather has been, all we can think about is one thing: melty, delicious fondue! And can you blame us? It’s National Cheese Fondue Day, afterall! Fondue is the ideal meal for a cheese lover – just melted cheese, a bit of wine, and whatever you feel like dipping. While we can go on and on about the different ways to enjoy fondue, we first want to ask: Do you know how fondue came to be? Don’t worry, we’re here to tell you all about the history of fondue – how it got its start, what got business booming, and how it spread over to the United States! 

Depending on who you ask, the first mention of fondue was in Homer’s Iliad, dated somewhere between 800-725 BCE. Of course, it wasn’t known as fondue at the time (it wouldn’t get that name until the late 19th century). The mixture the Greeks referred to was known as “kykeon” and was made up of goat’s milk, wine, and flour. It was a common drink of peasants, and was a meal that was used to break a sacred fast. Though it’s not the exact recipe as what would later be developed in the Alps, it is close enough to wonder if the ancient Greeks were celebrating Fondue Day too!

It wasn’t until 1699 that we got closer to the traditional fondue recipe that we know today. The original name for the dish was “Kass mit Wein zu kochen”, which means “to cook cheese with wine” – a fairly simple concept, but it laid a framework for what fondue would be. This recipe came from humble origins – it was said that the dish was developed as a method for peasants to make use of leftover bread and cheese during the winter months, when fresh fruits and vegetables were harder to find.

The word fondue didn’t come into play until the late 19th century, taken from the French word, “fondre”, which means “to melt”. Originally it was referencing an egg and cheese dish, but this would quickly change to mean the melty pot of cheese we love. The first modern recipe for fondue was published in 1875, but by this point, it was being presented as the “national dish of Switzerland”. Fondue became further popularized in the 1930s by the Swiss Cheese Union, as a way of increasing cheese consumption. They created regional inspired recipes that were part of the “spiritual defense of Switzerland”. Fondue was seen as a symbol of Swiss unity, due to the marketing campaign by the Swiss Cheese Union where fondue sets were sent to military regiments and event organizers following World War II.

But how did we learn to love fondue here in the States? It was all thanks to the World’s Fair. Fondue was first promoted to Americans by Switzerland for the first time in 1964, at the New York World’s Fair. The dish was served at the Swiss Pavilion’s Alpine restaurant. Fondue was a hit with the local crowds, and it didn’t take long before the recipe spread to New York City restaurants.

If you were to head over to Switzerland to enjoy fondue, you might be surprised by the variety of recipes that are enjoyed across the country. In Geneva, fondue is made “moitié-moitié” – half Gruyere and half Fribourg-style Vacherin. Gruyere is considered one of Switzerland’s most famous cheeses and is noted for its nutty and firm nature. Vacherin is similar to Italian Fontina, featuring acidic, creamy, and woodsy flavors. Another feature of Geneva style fondue is the addition of kirsch, which is a cherry brandy. In eastern Switzerland, the recipe features a mixture of Gruyere and Appenzeller. In Valais, it’s a blend of Gruyere and Raclette, while Bern’s recipe focuses mainly on Emmentaler as the key ingredient. Regardless of where you enjoy your fondue or what recipe you use, nearly all Alpine style cheeses will go great melted into your fondue pot of gooey goodness.

There are many traditions associated with enjoying a pot of fondue. One tradition states that if a man loses his bread in a pot while dipping, he has to buy everyone at the table drinks. If a woman loses her bread, she must kiss her neighbors. Another tradition has to do with “la religieuse” – if fondue is kept at the right temperature, there is a thin crust of toasted cheese that remains at the bottom of the pot when the fondue is finished. Known as “la religieuse”, or “the nun”, it is traditionally fished out of the pot and eaten at the end of the meal. Stories vary as to where the name comes from – some say that it was because monks would save this remaining bite for the nuns in abbey. Others say that la religieuse resembles the cap that nuns would wear during the Middle Ages.

We’re Going Ham for the Holidays!

With Easter only about a week away, we’re starting to seriously think about our dining plans. If we’re being honest, the idea of another boring baked ham is filling us with a certain amount of dread. It’s not that we don’t love ham – working in the specialty food industry, we’ve had plenty of seriously delicious ones. And then it hit us: This Easter doesn’t have to be the traditional honey glazed version you’ve had pretty much every year. Why not put a Murray’s twist on a holiday classic? Here are some delicious alternatives that will leave your family and friends reconsidering those old traditions.

This is the closest we’re going to get to classic ham, but it is so much better. That’s because Olympia Provisions has perfected the art of butchery, curing, cooking, and smoking – and all of that skill went into the creation of the Sweetheart Ham. This delectable pork sirloin is brined for ten days with juniper berries, floral herbs, crushed garlic, and fresh onions, which leaves this beautiful rosy ham salty yet herbaceous. Sweetheart is then smoked over fragrant applewood for ten hours, sealing in the moisture and imparting a gentle sweetness. Seriously, we’ve never had a classic home-style ham as moist and decadent as this lovely little round.

Prosciutto di Parma is considered the King of Hams over in Italy, and we believe the title is well deserved. The Italians have been making Prosciutto di Parma since the Roman Empire was ruling over the known world and is considered a time-honored tradition from Parma, Italy. Over time, Prosciutto di Parma’s rich, gamey flavors have become well-known throughout Italy, and the world. The process is fairly simple – all it needs is sea salt, which it is cured in, air and time. The longer it is aged, the more concentrated and flavorful the meat becomes. When thinly sliced, Prosciutto is a velvety, nutty ham that’s unlike anything you can find in the States. Traditionally, it’s served with Parmigiano Reggiano, as it’s from the same area – if you’re thinking of giving it a pairing, we highly recommend putting the two together.

Maybe it’s time to bring the heat back to Easter. It’s pretty easy to do – you just have to incorporate Chorizo Iberico into your holiday plans. A classic, spicy dried sausage native to Spain, Chorizo is traditionally flavored with peppery smoked paprika. This chorizo is made with Iberico pork – a pig that forages through the forests of the Iberian Peninsula, feeding on a diet of acorns, roots, and wild herbs. All that flavor from what they’ve been munching on comes through in the meat, which develops into a natural nuttiness that makes Iberico ham highly coveted. We suggest mixing things up when it comes to pairings, since the heat and smokiness balances out those nutty flavors when given a little bit of Manchego and crusty rustic bread. If anything, it’ll definitely spice up your holiday meal.

You’re probably thinking, “Bacon? But I can have bacon any day!” Which is true. But instead of Easter dinner, let’s talk Easter brunch. Not only are you going to need some bacon to pile onto plates, but what about added to frittatas, omelettes, and even scones! If we’re looking for a top notch bacon to serve to family and friends, we’re reaching for Nueske’s Wild Cherrywood Smoked Bacon. It’s been made the same way since 1882 – spice mixtures are ground by hand, the bacon is smoked for 24 hours over wild cherrywood logs, and the simplicity is just magical.

Don’t Grill Us: We’ll Give You Our Grilled Cheese Secrets!

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – April is GRILLED CHEESE MONTH. You know that we indulge in grilled cheese whether it’s Grilled Cheese Month or not, but this is the time of year to up your grilled cheese game and step away from the simple recipe of cheddar and white bread. (Not that we don’t LOVE cheddar and white bread, but we just know it’s time for you to try something a little bit different!) We’ll give you the inside scoop on a few add-ons that will up the ante on your next cheesy treat. And trust us, you’ll be saying thanks after just one bite.

You’ve probably had bacon in your grilled cheese (and if you haven’t tried that out yet, it’s amazing). But let’s take it up a notch! Speck is a thinly sliced, Prosciutto-like meat that is velvety, herbal, and just a little bit smoky. The whole muscle is smoked over beechwood for hours, then pressed in a crust of juniper, thyme, sage, and fennel. Think of it as smoked bacon’s fancy older brother. Spread some fig spread on a rustic wholegrain bread, add some super melty Fontina Fontal, and layer the speck in the middle and, PRESTO: Grilled cheese magic.

You’ve done meat, now let’s talk about spreads. Now, we love being able to dip our sammies in sauce (think a French Dip or anything with gravy). But you should really consider spreading instead of dipping! Take a meaty cheddar, like Montgomery’s Cheddar, and spread a heaping spoonful of Puddletown Pub Chutney on some sourdough bread. The chutney, made from apples and onions that are soaked in an espresso stout, is going to impart flavors you didn’t even know existed (basically, it’s autumn in a jar) and bring a warm, comforting feeling that is perfect for a rainy day.

Okay, you’ve probably tried (or at least heard of) brie and granny smith apples in a grilled cheese before. But now’s the time to step up your game with that too. Forget about the brie – go with Camembert instead. Those earthy notes and buttery flavors will perfectly balance out the tart granny smith apples. Need to crank it up one more notch? Try Mike’s. Hot. Honey. Not only is it going to accentuate the sweetness, but it’ll add a spicy kick to the sandwich that you didn’t know you needed.


An Egg-cellent Easter Dessert Pairing!

Listen up, because we’re about to turn your world upside down. The last thing we want is for you to go into Easter with the same old meal – that roasted ham, the overly sweet chocolate bunnies, and those sugar-blasted Peeps. So we’re going to up your Easter game with one suggestion: take your cheese plate and turn it into a dessert cheese plate by pairing your best cheeses with some upscale Easter chocolate. We’re going to give you pairings for some of our favorite Easter chocolate (bunnies, eggs, and everything in between) and the cheeses that they would taste awesome with! 

Ah, the classic Easter bunny. There’s no food that is so often associated with Easter as the chocolate bunny. These mischievous bunnies are delectable, but if you’re interested in upping your game, we suggest you break out a log of Capri. This simple, rindless goat’s milk might be on the younger side, but it has a bold, vibrant, and tangy character that makes it clear that this is a spring time cheese. The crumbly, pasteurized goat’s milk is still creamy enough to spread – we say, scoop and spread over a bite of chocolate bunny and go nuts. Want to go crazy with flavor? Throw some raspberries into the mix.

Robin eggs, at least for us, have always been the sign that spring is here. Now, these might not be coming straight from the robin’s nest, but that’s okay. They’re made from decadent milk chocolate caramel ganache that is enrobed in white chocolate, then decorated to look like the real deal. But with a nutty milk chocolate, we’re going to need something creamy, buttery, and utterly delightful. We say, break out the Brillat Savarin. This cheese is basically buttercream icing in cheese form – talk about dessert!

Fresh eggs are a sign that spring has sprung – so how about some delectable chocolate ones? These white chocolate eggs are filled with a milk chocolate hazelnut gianduja mousse – so a nutty Alpine is natural pairing. Our Cavemaster coaxes flavors of roasted hazelnuts, butterscotch, and cocoa out of each wheel of Annelies and the natural nutty flavors are perfect with this chocolate/hazelnut combo. There’s a smooth creaminess in both the egg and the cheese – crunch into both and be taken away on an epic food journey.

Two for the price of one! This carton of eggs is filled with sweet chocolate bliss flavored with two different fillings – sweet ganache of the passion fruit and hazelnut milk chocolate varieties. Inspired by the hazelnut and sweet milk notes, we say break out the Challerhocker for those toasty, nutty eggs. Meanwhile, the passion fruit is just what the doctor ordered when paired with an apricoty, tangy blue cheese like the Bay Blue!

Cheeses to Bring the Spring

The beginning of spring always seems a little dreary (personally, we don’t love the constant drizzle, even if we know it’s good for the plants). So here at Murray’s, we’ve been thinking about the best ways to make the season a bit brighter. And what better way of doing it than picking bright, floral, and sweet cheeses to get us in the mood for warmer, sunnier days? So, we’ve designed two delectable collections to get us in that springtime spirit!

Springtime Splendor is us looking forward to Easter – think chocolate bunnies, caramel sweetness, and flowers in the middle of the table for brunch. That’s where our inspiration came from when putting together this collection. First we took our award-winning Hudson Flower, which is dressed in aromatic flowers and herbs, and full of springtime flavors from the Hudson Valley. Then we add in 2 Year Aged Boerenkaas, which is filled with rich caramel sweetness. Need a little bit more of a tangy dessert after Easter brunch? Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue has notes of dark chocolate within the tangy, piquant blue. But a springtime feast is more than just cheese! How about a few dollops of Murray’s Strawberry Rhubarb jam? Or maybe you could spread those delectable cheeses on Rip Rap Bakery’s Sea Salt Crackers. Finish it up with a handful of colorful and rich Chocolate Malted Milk Balls – decorated as beautifully painted pastel Easter eggs.

Meanwhile, we’re dreaming of sunshine, so we put together a trio hoping that it’ll come soon! We love the fresh, green grasses and warm breezes of spring, and of course, bloomy rind cheeses! We chose one of our favorites for this trio, Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill, which is silky and creamy and loaded with rich, buttery notes. When you dollop a spoonful of Serramel Lemon Curd on top of the Green Hill, it’s like being hit with sunshine, adding a custardy tart bit of citrus to the mix. We like to spread both over Effie’s Homemade Oatcakes – think of it as a nice picnic to celebrate that spring is here and (hopefully) will be blooming soon!

Did we get you in the mood for Spring yet? Even if the weather isn’t acting like it, we hope you can welcome in the season the best way we know how – full of bright, sunny cheeses and sweet delights.