Raclette // is a semi-hard cow's milk cheese that is usually fashioned into a wheel of about 6 kg (13 lb). It is most commonly used for melting. It is also a Swiss dish (also popular in France) based on heating the cheese and scraping off (from French: racler) the melted part.
|Country of origin||Switzerland, France|
|Region, town||Canton of Valais, Savoy|
|Source of milk||Cows|
|Aging time||3-6 months|
AOP since 2013
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
Raclette was mentioned in medieval texts from Swiss-German convents dating from as early as 1291. The cheese was originally consumed by peasants in the mountainous Alpine regions of Valais (Switzerland), Savoie and Haute-Savoie (France). It was then known in the German-speaking part of Switzerland as Bratchäs, or "roasted cheese". Traditionally, cow herders carried cheese with them when they were moving cows to or from pastures up in the mountains. In the evening, the cheese would be placed next to a campfire for softening, then scraped onto bread.
In Switzerland raclette is typically served with tea, other warm beverages, or Fendant wine. A French popular option is to serve it with white wine, such as the traditional Savoy wine, but Riesling and pinot gris are also common. Local tradition cautions that other drinks – water, for example – will cause the cheese to harden in the stomach, leading to indigestion.
Raclette is also a dish indigenous to parts of Switzerland. The raclette cheese round is heated, either in front of a fire or by a special machine, then scraped onto diners' plates; the term raclette derives from the French word racler, meaning "to scrape", a reference to the fact that the melted cheese must be scraped from the unmelted part of the cheese onto the plate.
Traditionally the melting happens in front of an open fire, with the big piece of cheese facing the heat. One then regularly scrapes off the melting side. It is accompanied by small firm potatoes (Bintje, Charlotte or Raclette varieties), cornichons (gherkins), pickled onions, and dried meat, such as jambon cru/cuit, salami, and viande des Grisons, and to drink, Kirsch, herbal tea or Fendant (wine from the Chasselas grape).
A modern way of serving raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans, known as coupelles, in which to melt slices of raclette cheese. Generally the grill is surmounted by a hot plate or griddle. The cheese is brought to the table sliced, accompanied by platters of boiled or steamed potatoes, other vegetables and charcuterie. These are then mixed with potatoes and topped with cheese in the small wedge-shaped coupelles that are placed under the grill to melt and brown the cheese. Alternatively, slices of cheese may be melted and simply poured over food on the plate. The emphasis in raclette dining is on relaxed and sociable eating and drinking, the meal often running to several hours. French and other European supermarkets generally stock both the grill apparatus and ready-sliced cheese and charcuterie selections, especially around Christmas. Restaurants also provide raclette evenings for parties or dinners.