Sip and Savour: Top Tips for Pairing Cider with your Food
After a long day, there’s no better feeling than pouring your favourite beverage and enjoying that first sip. When the can cracks open and the sweet aromas of gala apples and fermented fruit hit your nose, the scents mix satisfyingly with the sounds of popping bubbles just as the shimmering liquid meets your glass. Cider is even better when it’s paired with the right food.
While it’s not always necessary to have each meal perfectly tailored to the beverage of your choosing, finding the right pairings every now and then can make the difference between purely enjoying your drinks, and fully experiencing them. Cider is a perfect example as it’s the ideal blank canvas for pairing.
With so many ingredients out there, it can be overwhelming to narrow down exactly what you need to bring a harmonious pairing to your beloved cider. So, to make it easy on you, we’re sharing our favourite top tips and techniques.
Typically, when we think about pairing beverages to our meals, we commonly think of pairing wines, not ciders. The main objective is to achieve a pairing where the flavours complement each other, and therefore enhance the tasting experience of both the food and beverage. Although it may seem a lot less fancy, a carbonated drink can be a better choice when it comes to food pairings because they have the ability to cleanse the palate with each bite. This is just one of the reasons why we favour ciders with our meals!
Working like a blank canvas the crisp and fruity essence of a cider can be dressed up or down. Ciders also have a wide range of versatility; they can be dry and lean or rich and full. They also have varying levels of fruitiness, body, and flavour, which allows you to get even more creative with the types of dishes you pair. So, whether you’re looking to bring lightness to a protein heavy meal or just feel like perking up a classic pound cake, a cider will bring the right amount of balance to your meal without overcomplicating the dish.
There is a straightforward foundation for pairing foods to beverages and it comes from the concept of resonance. This refers to finding flavours within a beverage and flavours within a dish that are reminiscent of each other. If we think about what kind of flavours we can pick out in a cider, typically we think of fruit, especially apples. Since this is what resonates within the beverage, to create a pairing you will want to cook a dish that features or balances out that same ingredient. There are three different techniques that you can utilize to accomplish resonance: you can either pair flavours, pair intensity, or contrast your flavours to create a unique combination.
1) Pairing Flavours:
One of the most common ways to achieve a successful food pairing is by simply matching the flavours of your dish to the flavours featured in your beverage. This is a great place to begin when you start curating your own food pairings, as it is easy to pick out similar ingredients in items! For example, an obvious compliment to an apple cider would be to opt for an apple-centered dish, such as apple crisp. The sweetness of the apples in the dessert are rounded out by the dry and more bitter flavour they carry in the drink. Another way of pairing flavours in your meal would be to utilize the beverage itself while you cook. Our Semi-Sweet Apple Cider is a great choice for cooking into dishes as the Spartan and MacIntosh blend has a natural preserved sweetness that transfers nicely into light meats such as chicken, turkey, or pork. Why not use your Semi-Sweet Apple Cider to braise your next chicken or turkey and top it with extra apples, bacon, and sage!
2) Pairing Intensity:
Once you’ve mastered pairing flavours you can up the ante by matching the intensities of your food and drink. Think about this in terms of bold versus bold, a potent flavour will compete well with a drink that is equally as compelling. Flavours don’t always have to be bold, either. Similar results can even be found when combining refined and more delicate flavours. For example, we love having our Lavender Honey Cider with homemade pound cake. The floral notes of lavender cozy up to the smooth creamy honey from the alfalfa fields, and pair expertly with the sweetness of the cake. For an added layer of flavour try adding our Lavender Honey Cider directly into the cake mixture to really bring the flavour home!
3) Contrasting Flavours:
The most complicated of all the pairing techniques, finding contrasting flavours can be the hardest to successfully achieve. However, this is one of the most widely known cooking techniques, as I’m sure we’re allfamiliar with flavour pairings such as sweet and sour, or sugar and spice. Instead of matching flavours based on their likeness, you want to pair flavours that will cut through each other, bringing balance in a unique way. Take our Dry Apple Cider for example. The blend of traditional bittersharp and bittersweet varietals such as Northern Spy and Bramley, co-fermented with Gala and Ambrosia apples creates an intensely dry and crisp flavour. This dryness could be contrasted by using an opposingly rich ingredient such as a creamy cheddar cheese. In fact, one of our favourite contrasting combinations to cook up is a hard-apple cider mac and cheese!
Now that you’re an expert on the techniques of food pairings, one final thing to note when it comes to incorporating your favourite cider is the presence of tannins. Tannin is a natural preservative found in the seeds and skins of a variety of fruits including apples. The tricky part about tannins is that they have the ability to unintentionally emphasize the spiciness or acidity in a recipe. If you find that your paring is unbalanced in this way, simply boost the sweetness or richness of your recipe to compensate.
So next time you’re at home with a perfectly crafted can of Shuswap Cider, make sure you’re pairing it with an equally delicious meal. You might just find a unique tasting sensation like you’ve never had before!