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Cozying Up With Raclette

For many cities in the Midwest, autumn is a
particularly exciting time. The days of warm weather are coming to a close. Neighbors
hustle to pack up their yards and unpack their sweaters. Leaves are raked,
cider and bourbon are shared and the last of the season’s fire pits are
blazing. While seasonal foods offer comfort, peace is made with the inevitable
return of winter.

One cheese that always makes a cyclical return to
mind is Raclette. I know I can enjoy melted cheese any time of year, but Raclette
seems to hold a special place in my memory when it comes to chilly weather
foods. Perhaps being surrounded by the aura of the Zuerchers’ Swiss heritage
and history invokes thoughts of getting snuggly in a snowy Alpine chalet with a
plate of gooey cheese and potatoes. I also appreciate that the name “Raclette”
refers to both the name of a cheese and a meal highlighting cheese as the star
of the show. Few other cheeses are celebrated enough to gather friends around a
table in its honor.

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Raclette’s origin is unclear. One story begins with
Swiss cattle herders who would take the cheese up to the mountains during
seasonal transhumance, or herd migration from pastures to mountains. While up
in the mountains, the cheese was cooked over a campfire and its bubbly surface
was scraped onto bread (the French verb “racler” means “to scrape.”) A second
story credits a vintner from the Swiss canton of Valais with using a similar
cooking technique.

Nowadays, we have modern grill options, including a
tabletop version for home or a more industrial heater for restaurant use. I’m
always hoping to see more cheese shops using the latter to lure salivating customers
into their storefronts. (Picture it:  the
cheese version of a roasted duck hanging in a window!) Even if you don’t have a
fancy grill or tools, you can still melt your Raclette cheese under your oven’s
broiler. Or, skip the traditional means of service altogether and opt for using
Raclette cheese in a grilled sandwich or mac-n-cheese. Any way you include it,
Raclette’s elastic, smooth texture makes an optimal melting cheese.

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The Swiss aren’t the only ones who can
take credit for Raclette production; the cheese is exported from the French
side of the Alps, as well. Zuercher & Co. even carries a domestic version
that rivals some European varieties. Each is unique in some way, which is why
we can’t offer just one. What all Raclette has in common, however, is a reddish-brown,
washed, edible crust and supple interior. Let’s take a look at the various
offerings available from our stock list:

S110
Le Superbe Raclette – Central Switzerland

·        
Pasteurized;
aged 3-6 months

·        
Semi-firm,
smooth, lactic, yeasty

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S115
Raclette du Valais, AOP – Valais, Switzerland

·        
Unpasteurized;
aged 3-6 months

·        
Semi-firm,
tangy, vegetal, nutty

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(Pictured above: Valais, Switzerland) 


F640
Livradois Raclette – Savoie, France

·        
Pasteurized;
aged 2 months

·        
Mild,
milky-sweet and softer than its Swiss cousin; our budget-friendly Raclette

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F645
Mountain Raclette – Savoie, France

·        
Unpasteurized;
aged 2 months

·        
Semi-soft,
aromatic, melon-like fruitiness; a competitively-priced raw milk option

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F648
White Wine Raclette – Savoie, France

·        
Unpasteurized;
aged 2 months

·        
Semi-soft,
fruity; accented by a white wine-brushed rind

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A1230
Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette – Vermont, USA

·        
Unpasteurized;
aged 3-5 months

·        
Semi-firm,
nutty, oniony and meaty

·        
Proceeds
solely fund Farms for City Kids, a foundation supporting the education of urban
youth in farming, food production and preservation

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(Pictured above: Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette)

Traditional accoutrements to melted Raclette are
crusty bread and boiled potatoes (generally small, tender varieties such as
fingerling, new potatoes, Bintje or Amandine) along with cornichons and pickled
onions, dried ham (Zuercher & Co. now carries a French Bayonne – ahem,
ahem), grainy mustard and apples or grapes.

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It is warned that one should not consume water with
Raclette cheese, but rather wine (Riesling, Pinot Gris and Beaujolais-Villages
are all complementary varieties), dry cider, Kölsch or amber beer or hot tea to
avoid indigestion.

Whether it’s an excuse to wrangle up friends, a
romantic date night or a simple weeknight meal, Raclette makes a great
cold-weather suggestion for customers looking for a cheese that is comforting
and warm. Zuercher & Co. offers a variety of Raclette cheese options for
the novice and connoisseur alike.