by Jenn Smith
Cider works well as a companion to cheese for a number of reasons – the acidity that comes from tart, juicy cider apples cuts through the inherent richness and saltiness of cheese, the carbonation scours the palate of butterfat, letting you take another bite, and the flavors of cider – terroir-driven, sometimes earthy, usually fruity – complement the flavor profiles of many cheeses.
While we were up at the Vermont Cheese Festival I made a point of seeking out the local cider makers – when you are slinging cheese on a hot day as I was, cider is a refreshing choice for an adult beverage – it’s average alcohol by volume (ABV) is generally lower than wine or even most beers so, less tipsy-making. And what better way to celebrate the bounty of New England then by drinking an agricultural product made by locals from local fruit!
I was particularly impressed with the ciders coming out of Whetstone Ciderworks. They are bright, rustic, and reflect the complex deliciousness of the heirloom apples that the cider makers source from orchards around their family farm. They have a couple of different expressions, but I was particularly smitten with the Orchard Queen, which uses oddball varietals such as the Dabinett and Ashmead’s Kernel that lend tannins to the end product; those tannins are a perfect foil for the dense creaminess of some of the cavemaster cheeses I was preparing for seminar tasting plates. In particular, the Orchard Queen made a love match with Greensward – the funkiness of the washed rind brought out some depth in the drink, and the overall effect of the combination was of an apple and leek custard enriched with bacon fat. The texture of the cider kept my palate from being weighed down with the unctuousness of the washed rind cheese.
I’m of the opinion that, like Champagne, rustic cider goes with just about anything, so the Whetstone-Greensward combo is just one pairing – I’m sure it would have played nicely with the Torus, or the Tarantaise…or just about any of the cheeses in our caves. Get your hands on some cider and give it a try yourself!