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Tips for Pairing Cider and Food

 

Cider might be more associated with sunshine drinking than mealtime pairings, but real cider that has been carefully crafted by hands-on producers is one of the most food-friendly beverages there is. If you’re looking for tips on how to approach pairing Irish food and cider, who better to look to than Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen’s book, Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider, from which the following extract has been taken with the authors’ kind permission. Over to you, Caroline and Kristin:

 

“You might be surprised by how many foods can be paired with cider. Its natural fruitiness makes it easy to drink and easy to pair with food, plus its low ABV keeps things nice and light, making it a good choice for a midweek meal or those times when you want to relax with a glass of something but need to stay sharp to get through the rest of the week.

Dry ciders and sweet ciders are not created equal when it comes to matching cider and food, so take note of which kind you have at home or which you prefer and go from there. ‘For food and cider matching, classic cider, made from classic cider apples such as Dabinett or Michelin in Ireland, has all the elements of a red wine: body, tannin and acidity, but obviously much less alcohol. Therefore with food you’d look for something in opposition to balance these elements – a protein, so meat and cheese,’ advises Emma Tyrrell from Cider Ireland. ‘That said, cider is a milder flavour, so you wouldn’t necessarily look for anything as strong as game or lamb, but rather pork or chicken, or for cheese, a Brie or Camembert. Sweeter cider would work well with food with freshness and acidity, with hard and tangier cheeses or milder blue cheese.’

The same guidelines that apply to matching beer and food apply to cider too: decide whether you want to complement or contrast flavours, pair like with like and think seasonally.

  • A good rule of thumb to start with is that if a certain dish or food goes well with white wine, then the chances are that it will also pair nicely with a fruity cider. This is because cider’s lighter, more delicate flavour complements lighter, delicate foods.
  • Pairing a fruity cider with fruity dishes is the easiest, most intuitive match. This applies to both sweet and savoury dishes – an apple crumble or pork with roasted apples will get a lift when served with an equally fruity cider.
  • Cider loves pork. Pork belly, sausages, chops, ham and bacon will sing when served with a good cider to drink alongside, as the sweetness of the cider is a classic contrast to the salty pork.
  • The delicate flavour of cider also plays well with chicken, as opposed to more heavy-hitting meats like beef, which would overwhelm it. Try hearty, wintry dishes like chicken casseroles, creamy chicken pot pies or a roast chicken with its crisp, salty skin with a cider. On the lighter side, try a chicken Caesar salad. 
  • Seafood and cider can work well together too. Light fish, oily fish and even oysters are a good match with dry cider, in much the same way that white wine and seafood is.
  • Believe it or not, sweet cider matches well with Asian food and spicy curry, helping to cut through the heat. A dry cider, however, can unpleasantly enhance spiciness or acidity, so steer clear of those.
  • When it comes to vegetables, think seasonally. Cider and, say, a butternut squash gratin, a creamy cauliflower cheese or a wild mushroom risotto will work well together. A sweet cider will also complement the sweetness of roasted autumnal vegetables – think roasted onions and fennel.
  • Cider is also a beautiful match with cheese. Cider and a strong Cheddar is the most well-known match, but it also works well with Camembert and creamy cheeses. Sweet cider can also contrast nicely with salty blue cheeses, or try a dry cider with sheep’s milk or goat’s milk cheeses. The earthy mustiness of washed rind cheeses complements those same qualities in sweet cider.”

For more information on Irish cider history, production and styles, see  the excellent ‘Cider House Rules’ chapter in Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen, published by New Island and available on Amazon