Cider and Food Matching

Having just returned from Bristol where I presented on the opportunities of pairing cider with food at the Cider Trends Summit I thought I would put a few thoughts (on the summit and food pairing) down here…
[jump to food pairing]

The Publicans Morning Advertiser put a fantastic event together. I particularity enjoyed hearing from Michael Gillane, Heinken UK, about the state of the cider market at present. Bruce Jack, Orpens Cider, on his diversion from the wine industry in to Irish and South African craft cider and Pete Brown on ‘the most exciting cider market in the world’, aka North America.

The biggest lesson I hope that the UK cider industry takes away from the summit, and something that was echoed throughout the day, is that consumers, retailers, publicans and writers all want more transparency and more information around the cider we are drinking. We would love to know the apple varieties used and the juice content and we want more information on cider styles and flavour profiles. Education and innovation are going to be vital if this cider boom is going to have longevity instead of slipping away to make way for the next fad.

Via @JessicaCMason on Twitter

Talking to a room of nearly 200 cider professionals about the opportunities for pairing cider with food was a daunting task, thankfully I had the wonderful advantage of feeding and plying them with cider. Although I have tried and tested the three pairings I was very grateful to see that the majority of the room agreed with me. You can see what people had to say on Twitter via the hashtag #cidertrends.

Cider and Food Pairing

The fruity, appley flavours of cider naturally compliment pork. Similarly those flavours work with cheese whilst the acidity cleanses the palate. but cider is far more versatile with food than these steroetypes allow us to believe. Here are the three pairings I chose for the cider summit.

orchard pig charmerFirst up was Orchard Pig’s Charmer with Fish and Chips. A wonderful match thanks to the hint of citrus that comes through from the cider working brilliantly with the fish, the light tannic finish mimicking the vinegar and finally the sweetness and fizz taking the chip to new heights before washing the palate reading for that next mouthful of greasy potato magic.

Thatchers VintageNext I chose Thatchers Vintage to go with a Lamb Rogan Josh. This is a big, bold cider which is needed to stand up to the flavours in such a rich dish. Sweetness in ciders works brilliantly with spices, mellowing them and allowing the fruity notes to bring the spices to the fore almost like a liquid mango chutney.

Domaine Pinnacle Ice CiderFinally, the showstopper. Something that many of the delegates hadn’t tried before. A 2008 vintage Canadian ice cider from Domaine Pinnacle. Inspired by ice wines, it is made from the juice of apples left on the trees to freeze during the harsh Quebec winters. With around 80 apples in each bottle, this is rich, sticky, decadent, delightful and, in my opinion, worth every penny of the £25 a bottle price tag.  The incredible balance to the sweetness and acidty make it a perfect partner for blue cheese. The cider has a little funk to it mirroring the stinky cheese, the sticky sweetness removes any requirement for chutney and the crisp clean acidic finish means that neither the cheese, nor the cider, become too cloying. Currently available in a handful of Marks & Spencers stores, although hopefully it’s distribution will grow.

Food pairing with any drink is far from an exact science and the fun is all in the experimentation, but if you are going to experiment it’s worth having a few basic rules in mind…

  • Match intensity of the drink with the food
  • Acidity
    – cuts through fatty or oily food
    – complements acidic food
  • Sweetness
    – complements salty food
    (although not with tannin present!)
    – coupled with acidity it mellows spice
    – sweet & sweet, great with desserts
  • Tannin & Oak
    – tannin also contrasts & cuts fatty & oily food
    – full bodied ciders and rich, bold food
    – oaky cider with smoky food

I’ll also be hosting a session on cider and food pairing in association with Thatchers (and a few other ciders) at Imbibe Live on Wednesday 2nd July at 1pm in the Taste Zone.

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