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Ski and Gastronomy: Raclette

The alpine countries are a gourmet’s paradise to be enjoyed in your ski trips. In this new series of posts we want to share with our followers some of the most emblematic dishes of Alpine cuisine.

Raclette du Valais AOP
Raclette du Valais AOP

What would the alpine valleys and pastures be without their cows? Hérens cows, Browns, Simmental, Red Holstein or Black Spotted... In Switzerland, cows are part of the landscape and Valais is the country of the Hérens and La Raclette breed.

Raclette du Valais AOP. Hérens breed cows
Raclette du Valais AOP. Hérens breed cows

The cheese Raclette du Valais AOP is a semi-hard, extra-fat cheese that is made exclusively in the canton of Valais/Wallis based on raw milk. It usually comes in the form of a large wheel weighing approximately 6 kg. Its rind is firm and has a characteristic orange color, and its interior hides a soft yellow paste with a pronounced smell. The quality of this cheese is the result of the combination of three factors: a Mediterranean climate, excellent alpine pastures and traditional manufacturing protected by the AOP seal.

Raclette du Valais AOP
Raclette du Valais AOP.

According to tradition, a Valais winegrower named León was the one who discovered Raclette. On a wet and cold autumn day the winegrowers were working in their vineyards. At noon they used to sit around a bonfire to warm themselves and regain strength. One day they took out of their bags the bread, wine and cheese they were fed. But Léon was eager to eat hot. Not having kitchen utensils, he came up with the idea of heating the cheese directly over the flames: Raclette was born!

In Roman times, Alpine cheese enjoyed an excellent reputation. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, cheese was used as currency, as wages or for commercial purposes. We know that the practice of eating cheese melted over a fire was already known in Valais since ancient times. The name "Raclette" comes from the local dialect of the term “racler” which means to scratch, and appears documented for the first time in 1874 to describe the cheese of the same name.

Raclette in Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee. Ferienart Hotel. Raclette. Photo: Ski Paradise

Raclette (feminine) is also a traditional Valais dish known all over the world and especially popular among visitors to the ski resorts of the Valais. Traditionally, cheese was melted by bringing it close to a heat source, a fire or in an iron appliance. Nowadays, it is consumed using an electric grill also called raclette​ or sometimes raclette.​ Its way of preparation makes it a meal that is especially appropriate to eat with friends. The cheese is served melted accompanied by boiled potatoes, with local sausages, cornichons (fermented, pickled cucumbers), and pickled onions.

A modern way of serving raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans, known as coupelles, in which slices of raclette cheese are melted. The grill is surmounted by a hot plate or griddle. In Switzerland the electrical raclette is called "raclonette".

Below you can watch the video of the trip organized by Ski Paradise to Switzerland for the program "Escapadas con gusto" by Canal Cocina with the collaboration of Switzerland Tourism and Cheese from Switzerland.

On that trip we visited the towns of Gruyêre and Saas-Fee and we also enjoyed a magnificent Raclette at therestaurant Chateau de Villa in Sierre, one of the temples of Raclette.

Ski Paradise
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