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Fermentation Friday™ Let’s Pair Some Cider and Cheese!

"In A Glass of Cider It seemed I was a mite of sediment That waited for the bottom to ferment So I could catch a bubble in ascent. I rode up on one till the bubble burst, And when that left me to sink back, I was no worse off than I was at first. I'd catch another bubble if I waited. The thing was to get now and then elated.” ~ Robert Frost

Cider Tasting


I once read a book called The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Foreword was written by Michael Pollan, one of my favorite authors. The Table of Contents alone had me hooked at first glance. It brought me back to the end of summer activities, where our cellar was lined with pickles of varying styles, beets, crocks with salt pork belly, and hard cider in an aged oak barrel. Each area of that granite block basement, deliberately crafted to keep food cold, dry, and steady state, amazed me. Off to one side was a barn door on a slide, clearly hand-crafted by a local blacksmith. I walked toward the door, slid it open, and clicked on the light to find built-in shelving with enough space to secure 2-3 years' worth of food supplies. I couldn’t help but think, “This is why we harvest our meats, apples, and vegetables?” “Make our hard cider?” “Cheese?” We built our lives on creating hand-crafted products we could be proud enough to eat every day.

Apple Orchard

I reached into the refrigerator and grabbed the growler of hard cider, and with it, I pulled out the Vermont Aged Cheddar. I poured a small glass for myself and a friend who was visiting at the time. Each Fall season is essential for me to reflect on the flavor of apples, honey, and that aged cheddar cheese laden with salty lactate crystals embodying a nutty and gritty texture. With every bite, I swished and swallowed that filtered hard cider fermented with lavender, raisins, and honey notes.

Not only does Fall signify harvest and seasonal change, but it is also about renewal and taking stock of what we are tasting and how we lived our lives over the last year. The craft of fermentation aligns with how we care for ourselves and the foods we produce and choose to eat. Selecting the right recipe for creating a hard cider is essential, and how we build those layers of flavor and how we store and preserve is critical. Are we making a dry or sweet cider? Are we filtered or unfiltered? Tart or sweet apples? How do I select a cider in the store? How do I know what cheese to pair it with? How did my family select the right ingredients for our hard cider?

Apple Orchard - Farming

Selecting The Apples For Making Hard Cider

To make just five gallons of cider, we need at least 50 pounds of apples and other choice provisions to build flavor profile and depth. The French classify these profiles as Sweet, Bittersweet, Bitter, and Acidic. There are eleven varieties from which to make cider as a curator. But I prefer McIntosh, the national apple of Canada, and the Fuji. Finally, an apple only found in Sebastopol, California - the Gravenstein, bred by Nathaniel Griffith, who planted his orchard on Laguna Road in 1883. A farmer who worked with the famous grafter Luther Burbank to develop the Gravenstein Apple in concert. It all comes down to flavor profile, fermentation process, and depth of flavor from products to enhance the apple of choice.

Cider in the Sunset

Sourcing Hard Cider

Sourcing hard cider is like purchasing any other fermented alcoholic beverage; it requires us to taste and learn each style: Barrel Cider, New England Cider, French Cider, and Flavored Cider the specialty categories are endless. After tasting hard ciders, I learned that my favorite is the McIntosh dry, unfiltered (Yeast) ciders.

Three ciders that pair well with Cheddar and Gouda:

  • B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill is located on North Stonington Road, Mystic, CT. Clydes Cider Mill sells the delicious hard cider, The Original, fermented in Oak Casks. The Growler sells for $31.75, and refills are about $18.

  • Shacksbury is a cidery located in the Champlain Valley of Vermont, a place defined by community and an outdoor active lifestyle. As Vermonters, they thrive on nature, and Shacksbury is no exception. They make organic and complex ciders that are always pushing forward while never straying far from that natural beauty our home state is known for. Try Classic Dry and The Arlo for a dry and fruit-forward flavor.

  • Brooklyn Cider House is an Asian-owned cidery in New Paltz, New York. Thanks to a Brooklyn Cider House, it has come a long way quickly, offering over six types of hard cider. Try the Dry varietal, fermented and aged with extra bitter cider apples.

Cider Press

What About The Cheese

Three cheeses come to mind when pairing dry hard cider: Manchego, Gruyère, and Vermont Cheddar. When tasting cheese, selecting the right cheeses with the style of aged hard cider is essential. The sweeter the hard cider, the more smooth and softer the cheese. A better understanding of Aroma, Flavor, and Texture leverages how we evaluate the cheese tasting.

Fromage - Cheese Tasting

  • Vermont Cheddar Tasting Notes: Tasting aged cheddar from Vermont is fermented for one to five years; the longer the aging, the heartier the bite.

Aroma: Lactic, Creamy

Flavor: Savory, Strong

Texture: Creamy, yet prone to crumbling

Aroma: Lactic, Earthen

Flavor: Salty, Nutty

Texture: Creamy, Mild, and Firm

  • Manchego Tasting Notes: The Viejo pairs well with hard cider and is aged for between 1-2 years. This cheese is the firmest, containing a lactate crystalline structure throughout. The aging process results in this cheese having a pronounced sharpness.

Aroma: Earthen, Grassy

Flavor: Sharp, Nutty

Texture: Firm, Crumbly, Butter

Aging Cheese

Pulling Together a Tasting

Tastings should begin with a cheeseboard, a real sensory analysis of hard cider, and fermented dairy symbiosis. Fermentation is important for the tasting experience, especially the nature of gas bubbles releasing the aromatic elements into your taste buds. Pairing cheese and alcohol is deeply rooted in our culture, and we should note how it tastes and makes us feel. For your first experience, chill the cider, slice the cheese, and enjoy!

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