What is Raclette?

Recently I was asked what is raclette. I have been writing lately about many of the different types of Swiss cheese when this question came up. However unfamiliar this term is to you, let me assure you that it has been very popular to many throughout the decades dating back to medieval times. Answering the question “What is raclette” requires a more intense answer instead of a simple one in connection to cheese.


Raclette is a cheese originating in Switzerland, the name coming from a French word “racler” meaning “to scrape”. This cheese is also made in France and similar versions in the United States. This Swiss cheese is shaped in a wheel and has a delicious mellow slightly nutty flavor. This creamy cheese from the Alps is made from the summer and early fall cow’s milk with a naturally high butterfat content. This buttery smooth cheese is most famous for its melting qualities and is usually served melted and poured over vegetables, breads and meats. As with most types of cheese, raclette cheese is made by curdling the cow’s milk, straining the curds and then packing the curds in wheels. The cheese is then aged for at least three months.


WHAT IS RACLETTE? This term raclette is also applied to potatoes. Melted raclette cheese is almost always served with small potatoes plus other vegetables and meats. Although these potatoes are officially called by a variety of different potato names, when serving with raclette cheese, they are referred to as “raclette potatoes”. Small new potatoes are best for this purpose; they are boiled and served with the other ingredients from a grill, griddle or as the raclette dish.

WHAT IS RACLETTE? This could be a ratclette grill which can be purchased to heat the cheese until it melts and to heat the accompaniments; or you might say you will be having a raclette grill (meaning party or meal) at your home. This kind of a get together reminds me of the fondue parties so popular in the 1970’s in the US; in Switzerland the raclette grill is more popular than the fondue parties.


This type of grill started back when the cow herders move the cows through the mountains. They would take large wheels of raclette cheese with them. While sitting around the campfire, the cheese would melt. They would scrape off the melted cheese and spread it over bread. This provided a warm hearty and nutritious meal for the peasants.


Today a raclette grill is usually served from the tabletop. If you do not have a raclette grill to heat everything on, you can use any kind of table heating like an electric griddle. Thinly sliced or grated raclette cheese (if raclette is not available try other types of cheese Emmentaler or Jarlsburg) is brought to the table to each person in heat resistant dishes (small disposable pie pans work well). A large platter of boiled potatoes are always offered to guests. Prepare a platter of meats for the table; ham pieces, sausages, cooked meat balls and sliced beef or pork. A platter of steamed colorful vegetables and fresh hot bread will finish off the grill. Plates and utensils are provided to each guest so they can spoon the melted cheese over the other ingredients.


Like fondue parties, this is a great way of socializing. Because this started as a hearty meal, it is the tradition to serve warm or hot beverages like tea with a raclette grill. Today as a party idea, some choose to serve a white wine with the meal.


WHAT IS RACLETTE? This term can also refer to a raclette recipe, a cheese and potato recipe. It combines some of the favorite ingredients of the raclette grill into a baking dish; always including raclette cheese and small boiled potatoes. Other ingredients that you would use when serving the grill can be combined for added flavor. After placing the raclette recipe under heat to melt the cheese, the dish is served hot.

RACLETTE RECIPE What is raclette? Try making it

  • 4 Cups small boiled potatoes (Can use canned potatoes)
  • 1 Medium thinly sliced onion
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • Salt/ pepper/ paprika
  • 4 Strips Kosher dill pickles, diced
  • 1 Pound small link sausages, cooked
  • 1 Jar pimentos
  • 2 Cups shredded Raclette or Emmentaler Swiss cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Place hot potatoes and sliced onions in casserole baking dish; drizzle melted butter over top and sprinkle with salt. pepper, paprika.

Sprinkle casserole with diced pickles and pimentos.

Arrange cooked sausage links over top; spread cheese over sausages.

Garnish casserole with chopped parsley; bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and bubbly.


HOW TO MAKE RACLETTE CHEESE

  • 2 Gallons whole cow’s milk (Raw is best)
  • ¼ Cup fresh or 1 teaspoon powdered mesophilic starter
  • ¾ Teaspoon liquid rennet mixed with ¼ cup cool water
  • Salt brine: 4 cups salt mixed in 1 gallon water
  • Bacterial linens

Slowly warm the milk in top of double boiler for about 30 minutes until temperature reaches 88F degrees.

Slowly stir in the mesophilic starter culture; blend well throughout the milk.

Cover and set aside for 1 hour to ripen.

Blend the rennet into the ripening milk; allow the rennet to work for 1 hour without disturbing it.

NOTE: The curds will show a clean break when tested with a knife.

Cut the curds into ¼ inch curds; allow them to settle to the bottom of the pot and the whey will rise to the surface.

› Raclette

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