Hooray for wine! October is Virginia Wine Month. Yippee! Everyone in the Commonwealth loves wine and positive national press of late is testament to the quality products being made in our backyard….blah, blah, blah. We promote Virginia wine 12 months a year. Why not buck the system and use this blog post to talk about something other than wine? Let’s talk about the alcohol underdog. Let’s talk about a cagey veteran of the booze world poised to retake the national spotlight after decades of neglect. Yes, we need to chat about Virginia hard cider.
Question: What do we have an abundance of in Virginia other than stinkbugs, bad drivers and humidity? Exactly. Apples. We have more apple trees per square mile than the self-proclaimed “Apple Capital of the World” *Wenatchee, Washington. Hysop, Virginia Crab, Black Twig, Grimes Golden. These may sound like rare diseases the school nurse warned you about before heading off for spring break, but they are actually a small sampling of the many Virginia heirloom apple varieties used to make sophisticated sipping ciders.
Let’s face it – apple pies and apple butter taste great. But what if you could enhance the apple ingestion experience by combining it with alcohol? Well this conversation just got real didn’t it? The alcohol level of hard cider hovers between 6 and 8 percent; more bang for your buck than beer, but less harsh than wine. As one hard cider enthusiast notes, “…you can drink it at lunch and not have to take a nap in the afternoon.” Yes, please. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Depending on the blend of apples utilized, some hard ciders are delightfully sweet and others are bone dry. The sweeter stuff pairs best with spicy foods (like you would pair a riesling or gewürztraminer) the more dry varieties pair well with just about everything under the sun. Try dry hard cider as an aperitif in place of champagne at your next dinner party or better yet, drink it while mowing the lawn. Experiment by serving a semi-dry hard cider with cheese. You’ll find that the subtle apple undertones complement grassy and tangy cheeses, while the dryness cuts through their richness.
Cook with hard cider! Use cider to braise pork and venison, poach fish and shrimp, steam vegetables and mussels. Make a stew with it. Use cider in **cream sauces. And by all means, remember to account for the “cook’s measure” (sips set aside for the chef) when planning your meal. Odds are you’ll need more than one bottle to make it work.
Visit our friends at Albemarle CiderWorks and Foggy Ridge Cider and tell them the folks at Feast sent you. Let them enlighten you to the beauty and versatility of American hard cider made right here in Virginia.
*Note: I am fairly certain this is untrue, but the odds of a Wenatchee resident calling me out are slim. Feast does not yet have a Washington State presence.
**That’s right, I used a recipe link from Canadian Living. Apparently they have access to apples in Canada. Who knew?