For a long time now, fruit ciders have taken a back seat, letting Champagne reign celebratory moments, giving wines the spotlight at dining tables, leaving beers to dominate the pub or backyard BBQ, and supporting spirits to do its own thing. However, you may have noticed a recent resurgence of the cider, and it’s easy to see why.
Cider & Food
Ciders are easy to drink and its non-offending flavour profile makes it brilliant for food pairing.
Ciders can vary in complexity, dryness, sweetness, fruitiness, acidity and fizz. You’ll often find that the sparkling variety is a great palate cleanser and can balance out rich foods.
By the same logic as wine pairing, matching cider to food from the same region also works. For example, a cider from Normandy would go well with some of Normandy’s renowned Camembert.
Think about if the pairing will make the food taste better or make the drink taste better; does it create something magical when the flavours are combined or does it just overwhelm and drown each other out. But really, the only rule in my book is to drink and eat what you like!
What to look for
Ciders, most commonly apple ciders, are made from fermenting freshly pressed apple juice. Nothing much else needs to go into it and that’s exactly what you should look for — steer clear of added sugars and preservatives, and explore independent and local breweries.
We’re particularly fond of Rochdale Cider‘s traditional apple cider and pear cider. The family owned brewery boasts being New Zealand’s oldest cidery and uses tree ripened apples and pure glacial water from an ice age reservoir located deep below the brewery. Their traditional recipe and honest approach means the cider is one of the purest around.
Cider Appreciation Ideas
Inspired by the humble cider, our grazing table features cider steamed mussels and a sumptuous cheese board — perfect for easy entertaining! The spread will make guests want to jump right in, and what better way to share a bit of cider-appreciation!
I was lucky to find Spring Bay blue mussels at the local fishmonger. These mussels are sold pot-ready, meaning they’ve already been conveniently scrubbed, shaved and de-bearded so all you need to do is cook! I love that they’ve eliminated the hassle of preparing mussels, what used to be a time-consuming seafood to cook now just takes minutes.
The recipe below is super easy and tastes impressively decadent. The cider highlights the natural sweetness of the mussels and the bacon just heightens the experience. I like that the crème fraîche binds the flavours together smoothly without being too heavy. Keep in mind that you won’t need to add salt as you’ll have natural seasoning from the seawater in the mussels. Have lots of crusty bread handy, you’ll want to mop up all that divine sauce!
- Small knob of butter
- 6 rashers bacon, chopped
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 small bunch of thyme, leaves only
- 2kg mussels, pot ready
- 250ml Rochdale Apple Cider (¾ of the bottle)
- 2 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche
- Heat butter in a large pan deep enough to fit the mussels.
- Pan fry bacon until it starts to crisp then throw in shallots and thyme leaves and cook until softened.
- Turn up heat to maximum and add the mussels, pour of cider and place the lid on the pan. Steam the mussels for 5 - 7 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that haven't.
- Transfer mussels to a separate bowl and bring the juices to the boil. Stir through crème fraîche and pour over the mussels.
- Serve with crusty bread.
Cider also works brilliantly to cut through the rich creaminess of cheese. Have some cheese and crackers in one hand, and a glass of cider in the other, you’ll be set for a brilliant afternoon alternating between the two!
Here are some of my picks for the cheese board:
Organic Triple Cream Brie, Adelaide Hills, Udder Delights
Based in the pristine Adelaide Hills, cheeses from Udder Delights are hand-crafted with milk sourced from Mulgundawa Holsteins, a certified organic biodynamic dairy. The triple cream brie is indulgent and luscious, accentuated even more with the crispness of cider. The creamy buttery mouthfeel is utterly delicious!
Not to be forgotten behind cheese, cider and pork is a match meant to be. There are even festivals dedicated to this pairing in Yarra Valley (Victoria) and Swan Valley (Western Australia)! Of all pork, jamón would be right up there as a favourite.
Jamón Ibérico is made from black Iberian pigs that primarily live in Western and Southwestern Spain. These wafer thin slices of Ibérico ham have a depth of flavour like no other and simply dissolve into a savoury bliss that lingers until your next sip of cider.
Saint Porto Washed Rind
I accidentally stumbled across the Saint Porto washed rind cheese at Harris Farm Markets and instantly fell in love with its stinky cheesey perfume and salty crumbly texture. The pleasantly funky quality of this cheese paired with the subtle sweetness of the cider is a rather wondrous and fun combination.
Shadows Of Blue by Tarago River, Gippsland Cheese
Shadows Of Blue is a soft blue vein cheese often described as a ‘brie eater’s blue‘. It features a distinctive milk blue mould flavour that is toned down with a luscious rich double cream. It’s by far my favourite blue cheese, the creamy saltiness of Shadows of Blue is highly addictive and the contrast between salty and sweet, creamy and dry, is completely refreshing.
So there you have it – cider and mussels, cider and pork, cider and cheese. Surprise yourself with a feast for the senses.
This post was made possible thanks to Rochdale Cider