Move over wine, cider and cheese pairing is the next big food trend. It makes sense: the fruity notes of cider are a perfect compliment to a huge range of cheeses.
I’ve been working with Thatchers, one of the UK’s best-loved cider producers, to share with you my thoughts on cider and food pairing, and this time I’m exploring cider and cheese.
We’ve had wine and cheese, then came craft beer and cheese tastings, but the biggest trend now is to pair cheese with cider. It makes sense: the fruity notes of cider can perfectly compliment salty savoury cheeses.
For more than a hundred years, Thatchers cider has been made in Somerset, just a few miles away from the town of Cheddar – the birthplace of arguably the world’s most famous cheese. So it’s a great starting point to pair the two together.
From a creamy mild cheddar paired with a medium-sweet cider, to a sharp vintage mature cheddar paired with the oak-aged vintage cider, you really can’t go wrong by experimenting with the two, maybe with the cheese on some fancy crackers or some homemade Cape Breton oatcakes.
Ciders have a complexity from tannins, astringency, sweetness and carbonation, which can all affect how a cider will work with cheese and other foods. A cider with a bit more fizz can cut through the taste and texture of cheese and act as a palate cleanser between samples, while a bold aged cider can hold it’s own against a strong cheese.
By balancing the intensity of both the cheese and the cider so they’re mutually compatible, neither will overpower the other and can instead compliment. But still, contrast will also help to create a great pairing. And then there’s also texture to consider. Confused? Yeah, I am a bit as well. But this is cider; it’s not stuffy wine. There’s no snobbishness here – just relax, enjoy yourself and try cider and cheese pairing.
We all have different tastes and preferences, so I think the most fun way to enjoy cider and cheese pairing is to throw a party. Get a group together and surprise them with the fun of tasting ciders alongside your favourite cheeses. With a variety of samples for the cheeseboard, a few chutneys, crackers, plus a range of ciders, you’ll be in for a great night. Especially by the end of it all, because, you know, it’s booze. You’ll be a bit tiddly and stuffed with cheese. Win win.
That’s what I did.
So, I threw little party. We had cider, cheese and company. Perfect.
We found that the ciders with a bit more carbonation paired better with the richer, creamier cheeses. Like eating grapes with cheese can bring out their flavours, a sip of cider after cheese can create a burst of flavour while the fizz quickly readied our palates for the next cheese.
Without any hard and fast rules to be bound by, we just tucked in to discover our favourite matches. Here’s what we found:
Thatchers Katy (7.4% ABV)
– Light and fruity
– Aromas of pear and jasmine
– Lightly sparkling
This slightly sweeter cider was lovely with saltier cheeses such as goats cheese, as well as stilton and blue cheese. A chutney or fig jam is perfect to compliment both the cider and cheese with its sweetness, while the vinegar cuts through the dryness. As with all of the ciders we sampled, it was lovely with a strong local cheddar, but we were most disappointed with the edam – it being perhaps too mild and creamy to hold it’s own against the fragrant and aromatic cider.
Thatchers Vintage (7.4% ABV)
– Mature, oak-aged
– Softly fruity
– Lightly sparkling
Thatchers Vintage is flavourful, complex and rich, so we found that it was a great contrast with edam. They complimented each other well and the edam slightly dulled the stronger flavour of the cider. It was nice with the strong cheddar, but it didn’t go with it quite as well as the Thatchers Katy or Gold. What about brie? No, the strong oak-aged cider was no match with the mild creamy cheese. The bold cider definitely held it’s own against the strong blue cheese and they were great together, but it was definitely the edam that came out on top when paired with the vintage cider.
Thatchers Haze (4.5% ABV)
– Crisp, sweet
– Naturally cloudy
– Low carbonation
Haze is a traditionally cloudy cider that’s quite sweet without much fizz. Rather different to the other ciders we were drinking it went best with the camembert. The edam was too mild to cut through it’s sweetness, but it was nice alongside with strong local cheddar cheese. We thought that it would be nice with nutty cheeses or gouda.
Thatchers Gold (4.8% ABV)
– Medium to medium-dry
– Fruity wtih hints of honey with floral notes
This is a versatile, easy-drinking cider that everyone around the table was very familiar with. We found it to be a perfect match with a strong local cheddar and also great with a creamy but sharp and salty blue cheese. The chalky, bloomy rinded camembert didn’t pair with it quite as well, nor the sheep’s cheese, however it was quite sensational with cheddar. The vintage cheddar was the real star here, allowing the carbonation to cut through the cheese on the palate, so the strong flavour and nuttiness comes through. An absolute winner.
Take a look at the other articles in my series of posts about food and cider pairing with Thatchers.
So, what do you think about cider and cheese pairing? Will you be pairing cheese and cider at a dinner party soon?
Disclosure: Thatchers commissioned this post about cider and cheese pairing, but all opinions are my own.