Move over wine, there's a new drink in town! Cider has been around for centuries, and people are starting to realise that it is just as versatile as wine for food matching and is excellent as an ingredient. But what do you serve with cider? And how do you pair different types of food with different types of cider? Keep reading to find out.
We started getting interested in matching cider and food through conversations with one of our first customers - Danielle Coombs aka The Resting Chef. We soon realised that there was a whole world of cider and food that was just as rich and complex as the world of wine and food but that very few people had explored it.
We started holding cider dinners where Danielle would cook each course featuring cider as an ingredient and we would match the resulting dishes with different types of cider. It was great fun and involved a lot of tasting different food and cider combinations and it really opened our eyes to the world of cider and food.
Pairing cider and food
The guidelines for pairing cider and food are similar to those for pairing food and any drink. You're looking for complementary flavours that bring out the best in both the food and the drink. Sometimes this happens with flavours that are quite similar but sometimes the best combinations are contrasting flavours.
Match the style of cider to the dish
If your dish has big bold flavours then you need a cider with equally big flavours so it doesn't get overpowered. A big hearty casserole goes brilliantly with a jug of rustic farmhouse cider, burger and chips is better with an everyday sparkling cider and a fillet of fish would be better suited to a delicate glass of perry.
Match the sauce
There's a cider to go with most types of food, but as with any drink, you should match the cider to the sauce. For example chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce needs a completely different cider than chicken with tomato and olive sauce.
The evolution of food and drink
In most cultures, food and drinks have evolved in tandem to complement each other. For example in Italy, the food tends to be quite rich so the wine tends to be quite acidic to cut through the richness of the food. And in the South of France the wines tends to be quite big and bold, so they can hold their own with the big, bold flavours of Southern French cooking. The same is true of cider.
What type of food goes with cider
In the South West of the UK, where one of the most common types of fruit is apples, a lot of traditional dishes have evolved to match with apples. Think cheddar cheese, ploughmans lunches and pork pies and you've got the perfect match for cider.
Cider and cheese
One of the most famous food matches with cider is cheese. A good cheese and cider combination is hard to beat but it's not as simple as saying that all cider goes with all cheese because it doesn't.
We used to run cider and cheese tastings with The Bristol Cheesemonger. They were fantastic fun and over the years we must have tried hundreds of cider and cheese combinations. We liked to think that we were getting quite good at it but every time there would be one that surprised us!
The key is to have fun and experiment. There are no hard and fast rules - it's all about what works for you. But as we discovered, there are a few helpful guidelines. Tannic cider tends to match better with softer, creamier cheeses. Whereas stronger, sharper cheeses needed a fruitier cider. If you try to match a dry, tannic cider with a strong, artisan cheddar the flavours just clash.
Cider and spicy food
It's not just the traditional matches that go well with cider, there are many more unusual cider and food matches that work just as well. We think one of the best matches with cider is curry.
As with cheese, not all curries go with all ciders - you wouldn't want a dry, spicy curry with a bitter, tannic cider because the flavours will clash. But think about it - what do you traditionally have with curry? A sweet, fruity mango chutney. So a sweet, fruity cider works in the same way.
Cider vinegar is made by maturing cider so the alcohol turns into acidity. It is very good for you and is full of anti-oxidants. It is taken by many people as a cure for a wide range of ailments including arthritis, skin conditions and poor digestion. It is also excellent for cooking and a lot of chefs like to cook with cider and cider vinegar.
Cider aperitifs are excellent served before dinner. Our favourite is Kingston Black Aperitif, which is a blend of Somerset Cider Brandy and Kingston Black apple juice. It is excellent served as a sherry, or you can mix it with lemonade and apple juice to create a West County alternative to Pimms.
Desserts and cider
Matching cider with desserts is a bit more tricky because the tartness of the cider doesn't always go with the sweetness of the dessert. And cider and chocolate just doesn't work - however hard you try! So we now tend to use sweeter liqueur style ciders with desserts and they work brilliantly.
Ice cider was invented in Canada, where frozen apples were pressed to make cider. The frozen ice was left in the apple, leaving a concentrated, sweet juice which, when fermented, produced a concentrated, sweet cider. Ice cider is similar to a dessert-wine and is perfect after dinner with desserts.
Cider can produce some excellent drinks for after dinner as well and the most famous is Somerset Cider Brandy. This is produced in the same way as Calavados (French apple brandy) but is made from Somerset cider so is all the better for it.
Cider is distilled in copper stills to produce a concentrated Apple Eau de Vie and this is matured in oak barrels to produce cider brandy. The spirit takes on the colour and flavour of the wood to produce a rich apple brandy which is fabulous after dinner.
So there you have it, an overview of how cider can be combined with food to produce some fantastic results. The next time you are cooking, why not make it a cider themed dinner and impress your friends. We're sure that both you and they will be amazing by the world of flavours that are out there just waiting to be discovered!