Liz Roach: Pass the Cider, Please

“It seemed I was a mite of sediment / That waited for the bottle to ferment / So I could catch a bubble in ascent.”

photo-30As Thanksgiving trots its way closer, many of us identify with the cheerful sentiment that Robert Frost describes in his poem, “In a Glass of Cider.”

Especially if you are lucky enough to be sipping one of the many high-quality hard ciders that are available now.  From Virginia to New York to Washington state, producers across the U.S. offer many exceptional varieties.

This time of year, food columnists and wine experts argue like family over which of this or that wine may pair best with the myriad (and sometimes mystifying) dishes of Thanksgiving. Zinfandel? Pinot Noir? Dry Riesling?  This year, I’m recommending a hard cider.  It’s crisp, it’s refreshing, and it’s a traditional American beverage.  The Pilgrims are said to have drank it, and it may pair surprisingly well with your Aunt Lulu’s green bean casserole and Cousin Alvin’s cornbread stuffing. As a bonus for your allergy-challenged relatives, it is gluten-free.

Thanksgiving pairings are all about accenting the feast of plenty while not distracting from it. Today’s ciders use an assortment of apples, including Pippins and Kingston Black, among many others. Most cider producers make several renditions, from dry to sweet.  For meal pairing purposes, a drier version would work best.  But if you’re looking for an aperitif or dessert drink to pair with the pumpkin bread pudding and pecan pie, go for a sweet or sparkling apple cider. You may just create a new ritual.

Liz RoachWhile you indulge, be sure to toast and treasure those nearest and dearest to you, whether friends, relatives, or tablemates for a day.  As Frost concluded his poem, “The thing was to get now and then elated.” There’s no better time to celebrate than while surrounded by loved ones and before a heaving table of fixings and fine draughts.

Although excellent cider options abound, here are a few suggestions

Potter’s Craft Cider (Charlottesville, VA)  This young label produces two lively types of cider: the Farmhouse Dry and the Oak Barrel Reserve, which is aged in apple brandy oak casks.

Foggy Ridge Cider (Dugspur, Virginia)  Try renowned cidermaker Diane Flynt’s First Fruit and Serious Cider to go with the main course, or the harder-to-find Foggy Ridge Handmade for dessert.

Original Sin Hard Cider (New York)   In addition to the traditional apple hard cider, there are flavors such as Pear, Elderberry, and Heirloom Cherry Tree, which is made from heirloom apples and tart cherries.

Alpenfire Cider (Port Townsend, WA)  Of the many wonderful choices from this organic producer, you may want to sample Smoke, which is triple fermented in whiskey and mead barrels, and benefits victims of the 2013 wildfires.

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