‘Tis the season for garden parties. My neighbour-friend has one of the very best back yards in the world – small and brimming with herbs, food and flowers, a fence made of repurposed pallets, hung with old tires with waterfalls of flowers cascading out of them. But mostly it’s the lights she strung up that start to glow as it gets dark, and the friends with guitars, chatting and strumming, and the tables covered with food because everyone brought something to eat.
When I have to bring something to a party, I lean toward baked cheese dips, because they’re the very best to share with friends. And because S lives just two doors down, I baked mine in my cast iron pan and walked it over with a tea towel wrapped around the handle. It was devoured in under five minutes, was perfect with gin and tonics and prosecco drizzled with rhubarb syrup, and I came home to email everyone the recipe.
Caramelized onions, artichokes and handfuls of grated Jarlsberg for the win.
I’m a big fan of cheese – I have an entire drawer of my fridge devoted to it. I have a particular fondness for meltable cheese – anything that gets good and gooey with heat. Jarlsberg is one of those cheeses – it’s sweet, smooth and nutty – the kind with the big, round holes like you used to see peeking out of enormous Dagwood sandwiches. (I totally just went and dated myself there, didn’t I?) Although it has Swiss origins – in the 1820s, Swiss master cheese makers visited Norway’s Jarlsberg & Laurvig County (now known as Vestfold County) and taught the locals some of their cheese-making secrets, which died off but were rediscovered in 1956 by a group of students and scientists at the Agricultural University of Norway, who applied modern cheese-making technology to centuries-old techniques, and called it Jarlsberg. The method is still one of Norway’s best-kept secrets.
It’s mellower than gruyere, and perfect for fondue. In fact, you can do a quick skillet fondue with Jarlsberg, or creamy cheese sauces to pour over veggies or gratins. Before we left town, I made a creamy broccoli soup with the grated end of my Jarlsberg wedge. I like sticking thin slices alongside cheddar in grilled cheese (it adds more cheesy depth and creamy meltiness) and it’s my go-to for a croque monseiur. It’s perfect grated atop baked French onion soup and eggy things like quiche and frittata. It loves ham. (Or – I love ham with it.)
But still, when I think of the cheesy things I love most, and what’s sharable and best eaten outside, which is really what summer is all about, it’s a dip that takes under ten minutes to put together but makes everyone so happy.
* Huge thanks to Jarlsberg for helping me share delicious things, and sponsoring this post!