How to pair your Cider this Christmas with Jane Peyton
Please welcome Jane Peyton, the UKs first pommelier, who takes us through which Christmas Ciders she'll be drinking, and how to pair these to your Christmas meal. Over to you, Jane!
"When I suggest that cider matches well with food, there is general agreement that apples and pork complement each other but then people usually get stuck and cannot think of anything else that goes well with apples. My answer is that with wine we do not muse about what food matches with grapes and it is the same with cider and apples. Think instead about the acidity, tannins, sweetness and texture of the cider and use those as the tools for matching with food the way we use those same properties to choose a wine to go with our meal.
Tannins are compounds derived from plant material that add structure and texture to cider. They register in the mouth as dryness. Think of the drying nature of a cup of black tea – that is caused by tannins. Tannins have a very useful ability to attract fats and proteins in food. This means that tannins help to cut through the texture of dense and/or fatty food and refresh the mouth.
Acidity is present in the apples and it cuts through texture and the richness of food and cleanses the palate. Acidity is refreshing.
Sweetness acts as a contrast to savoury and salty food. It also balances spiciness.
Carbon dioxide is naturally present in cider (it is a by-product of fermentation) and some ciders are additionally carbonated. CO2 is very efficient at cutting through the texture of food, scrubbing the mouth and making it ready for another morsel. CO2 is also a source of acidity as it converts to carbonic acid. That’s one of the reasons for the ‘bite’ in cider.
Christmas dinner is a ritualistic feast with a fixed menu. There is no surprise, we know what we will be served each year. It is also a diverse meal with many sections, flavours and textures so it is tricky to find a drink that will enhance all those different elements. Good job then that cider is such a versatile drink. It comes in a number of iterations including still, sparkling, tannic, acidic, dry, sweet, and ultra-sweet.
The mantra for matching cider and food is:
- Co-ordinate: Think about the texture and density of food and match the cider accordingly, for instance, lighter foods with a light bodied cider.
- Cut: Choose cider with either tannins and acidity, or both, to cut through texture, flavour, richness, and fattiness.
- Complement: Cider that complements the flavours of the food. For instance, savoury cider with an umami rich food. Complement can also mean completing a dish missing a taste profile that would balance it.
- Contrast: Choose a cider that is a complete contrast to the food. For example, sweet cider with salty food.
Here are my cider suggestions for your Christmas dinner:
1. Smoked salmon
Choose a cider made in the Champagne method for its invigorating acidity and carbonation to cut through the oiliness of the fish.
Why not try this light cider with zingy acidity:
This is a full flavoured darkish meat so a tannic cider will do the trick.
Why not try:
Firm tannins and balanced acidity make this cider perfect for cutting through the dense texture of Christmas dinner.
This is not highly flavoured and the texture can be light. Choose a cider made with dessert apples that is soft on the palate.
4. Nut Roast:
Is savoury and matches well with sweet tannic cider.
5. Cheese course:
Colston Basset Stilton with ice cider or ice perry – both incredibly sweet.
Why not try:
Stilton and pears are delicious matches and The Wonder is made with Perry pears. Just like ice-wine is incredibly sweet so is ice perry because of the production process that concentrates the fruit sugars.
Read more about pairing Cider and Cheeses here
6. Mince pies/Christmas pudding:
Cider with dried fruit flavours is sublime.
Why not try:
This cider was made with the keeving process, meaning it has residual natural sweetness. It is fermented in oak barrels and has a subtle whisky flavour which matches well with mince pies and Christmas puddings.
With cider and dining there is only one rule that cannot be broken. No pint glasses. Ever. Nature did not grow those exquisite apples only for the cider to be served in the equivalent of a bucket. The Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon glass is beautiful, elegant, and worthy of the delicious cider that will make your Christmas meal even more special this year.
Jane Peyton is a drinks educator and writer and founder of the School of Booze. She is the UK’s first accredited pommelier (cider sommelier).