A winemaker called Leon is held responsible for the invention of the melting cheese known as raclette, when he accidentally let a half-wheel melt by the fire.
It is a good story but the origins of cheese-making in the hidden valleys of the Rhône river valley go back to before the Romans occupied the region.
For centuries, cheese was used as currency among the people and with visiting traders.
Geographically and historically linked to the area that now defines the canton, specifically the valleys of Bagnes and Goms, Raclette du Valais is a semi-hard cheese associated with the lively Hérens cows.
As much a part of Swiss alpine scenery as the chalet and cable car, these cows graze the fragrant flora of sloping meadows along with the black-dotted cows of picture postcard Switzerland.
The people of the Rhône valley regard their raclette as the true melting cheese despite its wider production in other parts of Switzerland and especially on the other side of the Alps in Savoy.
For hoteliers like Stefan Welschen, in Brig, raclette is the speciality of the canton, because of its character and the variety of its flavours.
The herders of the Goms Valley insist their milk is superior to that of the Val de Bagnes, and vice versa.
Once described as ‘delicious, fatty, sweet and soft’, the raclette wheels are consumed by the Valaisans themselves, melted, scraped and served in numerous ways or grilled until its edges are crisped.
A sixth of all raclette produced in Switzerland comes from the canton. A little is exported, largely to émigrés.
Wallis baked cheese, ham and tomato slices with fried egg, gherkins and onions
1 thick slice fresh white bread / toasting bread 100 ml dry white wine / Fendant du Valais 6 slices raclette cheese, 5 mm thin 2 slices ham 2 slices tomatoes 1 egg, fried Butter, for spreading 1 cucumber / gherkin, sliced small Silver onions, handful Pepper, pinch
Preheat oven to 210°C. Butter bread, place in an ovenproof dish, soak with the white wine. Lay on the bread one slice of cheese followed by the tomato slices, a cheese slice, a ham slice, another cheese slice, another ham slice, then finally the remaining three cheese slices, with a little overlap. Bake 15 minutes at high heat in the middle of the oven, or in a microwave, until the cheese is well melted and browned. Place fried egg on the kàseschnitte, sprinkle with pepper and garnish with gherkins and onions.