By Tatiana Pietrzak
Raclette is an indigenous Swiss dish, but also the name of a cheese. The cheese Raclette is melted, and traditionally potatoes and pickles were used to dip into it and scrape it from the bottom of the pot. Swiss shepherds would bring the cheap, hardy cheese along with potatoes up to the Alps in the French speaking Valais region. These two items would not spoil in the summer heat.
Origen of Dish
Potatoes would be roasted over and open fire and the Raclette cheese would melt next to it. Then the shepherds would scrape away. “Racler” in French means “to scrape”. Hence the name Raclette was given to this melting cheese.
Convents were the first to mention melted cheese dishes in 1291. But Raclette was first produced in the Valais and Fribourg cantons of the mountainous Swiss Alps, SW – home of the Matterhorn. It was also found in Savoie and Haut-Savoie, France. Later the Swiss Germans adopted the dish as Bratchäs or “roasted cheese”. They had it carried by cows to or from mountain pastures. Small new potatoes were used for their dishes.
However, today there is no legal trade mark for Raclette cheese. So, it is produced in Switzerland, Austria, France, Finland, Australia, Canada and the US. Purists want Walliser Raclette or French Raclette du Valais, aged three months. Valais Raclette is protected under PDO (protected designation of origin.”) Other towns that create the authentic cheese are Bagnes, Conches, Gomser, and Orsières.
Today, Raclette dishes are paired with white wine from Valais. Dishes also include using meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and even wild game and fruits. In the 1970s special machines and grills became popular for melting the cheese. These are still used today and can be found on-line.
Culinaria – European Specialties, Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, © 1995, p.219
Jenkins, Steven, Cheese Primer, Workman Publishing Co., Inc., © 1996, pp. 270, 278-9, 504-5