All is fair in cider and cheese, with three pairings to prove it.
For decades, wine has had the market cornered when it comes to pairing cheese. Frankly, it’s unfair and, to some palates, the total wrong direction. To sum up a counterpoint in one word: cider.
Thousands of ciders are now on the market in North America, running the spectrum in flavor, sweetness, and mouthfeel. To understand what’s in the bottle, think of the range of apple flavors you’ve tasted: some have immediate sharpness and tartness, others mingle that flavor with a long sweetness, and still others offer a rich, ripe flavor.
Aromas, too, vary from one apple variety to the next, from culinary apples seen on grocery shelves to more rare heirloom and traditional cider apples. Textures also have a sweeping range, hitting on crispness, soft lusciousness and levels of dryness.
As ciders become more complex with the maturing market, they borrow from techniques for other beverages, including barrel-aging, dry hopping and fermenting juice with Champagne yeast.
So, what does that have to do with cheese? Plenty. If you’ve ever had a great cheese served alongside a crisp slice of apple, you know that pairing the two foods is hardly a new idea. But just as cheeses are complex bits of science that come out delicious, so is cider. Add apple to carbonation, ramp up acidity, pull out some of the sweetness and marry its flavors, and you have a sophisticated product that complements cheese in ways a simple piece of fruit cannot in its unfermented state.
3 NEW CLASSIC PAIRINGS
Fresh Goat Cheese: Following the concept of similarity, fresh goat cheese has a lot in common with cider. Both have a fresh, “green” brightness that plays off the other. To avoid overpowering delicate flavors of fresh goat’s milk, keep the cider on the drier side.
Try: Foggy Ridge Serious Cider (Dugspar, VA) & Fresh Chevre from Gothberg Farms (Bow, WA)
Blue Cheese: Fudgy, flavorful blue cheese can hit on a whole range of flavors and textures, from piquant sharpness to berry flavors. Evening out the flavors with a fruit- tinged cider is a smart strategy, playing on the traditional cheese plate inclusion of dried fruits.
Try: Tieton Cider Works Apricot Cider (Tieton, WA) with Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm (Greensboro Bend, VT)
Semi-Firm Cheese: Cheddar and apple is a combination beloved by all ages, and a grown-up nod to the combination is easily attainable. The bit of saltiness and buttery richness in a medium sharp cheddar-style cheese gets a lovely balance from a semi-sweet, fruit-infused cider.
Try: Wyndfall Cider Root River American Session-style Raspberry Cider (La Crescent, MN) with Bandaged Cheddar from Bleu Mont Dairy (Blue Mounds, WI)