Tag Archives: apple cider

Serving Up a New Tradition at the Finger Lakes Cider House

Twelve years off and on in Ithaca, NY, has given me plenty of time to observe the beer, wine, and food scene of the Finger Lakes region change and evolve. Wine has been going strong for the past few decades, craft beer has enjoyed an impressive growth in popularity, and the occasional craft distillery graces the landscape. Add to that all the local honey, fruit, bread, meats, cheese, and the like, and you have a veritable moveable feast to take with you as you explore the lakes of the region. FLX CiderHouse - glass

And now we have something new to add to our picnic baskets: artisanal cider. Or should I say new again. Cider was a staple of the early U.S. colonies, and enjoyed a three-hundred year run before Prohibition put a cork in the jug. Sound familiar?

But as with craft beer, so, too with cider. Between 2008 and 2012, hard cider production in the U.S. increased by roughly 73% per year. And just as the rise of craft beer in places like Upstate New York has spawned ancillary industries such as grain and hop cultivation, the prodigious growth in cider production has sparked a renewed interest in apple cultivars suitable for making quality cider. Orchards growing apples for cider now dot the shores and slopes of the Finger Lakes where vineyards once reigned supreme. Lest we forget all those budding enthusiasts on the consumption side, shelves and walls of cider have also become more prominent fixtures of local bottle shops.

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I’ve had my share of ciders over the years, but have only recently turned my attention to the finer points of this particular “genre” of liquid sustenance. If you’re in a similar situation, a taproom dedicated to cider is just the place to visit. Fortunately for me, Finger Lakes Cider House opened its doors in May 2015 at the Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY –– right in time for my summer visit to the region.

The Cider House is not the first regional establishment to provision thirsty travelers with cider. Perched on a ridge overlooking the western shores of Cayuga Lake, Bellwether has been producing hard ciders amongst the wineries for about as long as I’ve lived in the area. But Finger Lakes Cider House is uniquely appealing, for it brings together five cideries under one roof to sell their wares: Eve’s Cidery, Black Diamond Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Good Life Cider, and South Hill Cider. IMG_3767Set amid bucolic meadows, a working organic farm and orchard, and the occasional vintage farm implement, the Cider House is a charming addition to the Cayuga Lake beverage landscape. Tastings at the sleek wooden bar get you 5 samples for $4, while flights (not to be confused with tastings) go for $12 and feature more substantial pours (5 X 3oz.). Ciders run the gamut from still to sparkling, and bone-dry to lusciously sweet, with the occasional fortified cider and ice cider making an appearance. All ten that we sampled were fermented in the British or northeastern American style, with none of the funky wild fermentation notes that characterize some French or Spanish ciders.IMG_3761

The dry Rabblerouser from Black Diamond Cider features rare red-fleshed apples, is leesy, chalky, reminiscent of quince, and finishes pleasantly tannic. Their Hickster, redolent of spiced stewed apples, vanilla, and a hint of that Normandy muskiness, is another good choice. South Hill’s semi-dry and Bluegrass Russet brings with it aromas of pear and spring blossoms, and is lightly musky with a touch of mint on its crisp palate.

One of the most compelling ciders was one I thought I wouldn’t like: Redbyrd Orchard’s Wickson-Manchurian Crab. Pressing the apples after freezing them in the cider barn concentrates the sugars enough to balance the native tartness and acidity of the crab apples.IMG_3766 The result is a medium-dry cider that evokes peach, ginger, and lime, with a pleasant balance of tartness and residual sugar rounding out the palate.

When it comes to cider, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and Good Life’s Honeoye offers up plenty of ripe red apples, a dusting of baking spices, and honeyed unctuousness. Not to be outdone, Eve’s Cidery’s Ice Cider contains a hefty 15.5% residual sugar (compared to the 5% residual sugar in the Honeoye), and is homemade apple pie filling in a glass –– sparkling, of course. Apples-and-spice aromas of nutmeg, allspice, and vanilla blend seamlessly with honeyed baked apple, all lifted by a crystalline acidity reminiscent of a late-harvest Riesling.

Last Drops

*Opt for the $5 tasting if you’re interested in tasting a wider variety. And make sure to order the charcuterie plate featuring a seasonal selection of locally crafted delectables –– a steal at $10. Our spread came with salami, rillettes, cheddar, pickled garlic scapes, cherries, rustic bread, and farm-fresh butter.

*Cider is a versatile beverage that will appeal to craft beer lovers and wine aficionados alike. If the battle lines are fairly firmly drawn in your respective circles, split the difference and head to a cider house. IMG_3807Related Tempest Articles

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

New York’s Finger Lakes Region: A Back-Road Craft Beer Tour

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

Images

Finger Lakes Cider House glass/logo: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com/

Remaining images: F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Fondue is a consummately convivial dish in any season. I’ve had fondues in summer, crowded around a communal table at Le Refuge des Fondues, that long-lived Montmartre institution famous for serving barely-drinkable wine in baby bottles. Yes, baby bottles. And I’ve had plenty of fondues in winter. Fondues marked many a special occasion in my family, with mid-December and early January birthdays expanding the holiday calendar on both ends. (Maybe this is why I can’t help but associate fondues with cold and snowy winter evenings.)

For my family, there was and remains only one way to make a fondue: Zermattequal parts Emmenthal and Gruyère cheese, white wine, and a hearty dose of Kirsch. Even today, this “classic” Swiss fondue remains one of my favourites. But I remember a late spring evening some decades ago in Zermatt, the picturesque town in the shadow of the Matterhorn, an evening that awakened me to the possibilities of this rustic dish. For starters, the restaurant listed not one but several fondues. This, in itself, was a revelation. I settled on the herb fondue, a classic Swiss fondue with so much basil that the fondue was more brilliant green than its typical yellow-cream colour.

IMG_0056Since that evening, I have concocted dozens of variations on the traditional fondue for what has become an annual winter dining tradition chez moi. To keep things interesting, I began experimenting with different combinations of cheeses and ingredients. I might, on occasion, add morels and roasted garlic, or sundried tomato and oregano, or even finely diced pancetta. It was just a matter of time before it occurred to me that I could melt the cheese in a liquid other than white wine.

Following are three fondue recipes straight from the Tempest cookbook, fondues that’ll warm the guests around your dinner table and keep the conversation lively well into the wee hours. The first features hard apple cider as its base, while the second is a richer affair bolstered by Doppelbock. The final recipe may be the only fondue recipe you’ll ever need.

For all of these recipes, you’ll need some way to keep the pot of bubbling liquid and cheese warm at the table. You’ll also need long forks. A fondue set works best, but you can always rig something up. All recipes serve four to six people, depending on how much bread and other accompanying food you’ve prepared.

Gorgonzola Apple Cider Fondue

Ingredients:

  • .3 lb. Gorgonzola dolce, cubed (use Cambozola if you can’t find a less assertive gorgonzola; it’s good to have a mix of creamy and pungent cheeses)
  • .4 lb. Gorgonzola piccante, cubed
  • .5 lb. Gruyère, grated
  • 1 cup hard apple cider, off-dry
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp. Poire Williams
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • For dipping: broccoli florets, cauliflower florets (parboiled); brown mushrooms (whole); fennel (sliced); 1 loaf sourdough bread or country bread (cubed)

Directions:

Prep the vegetables. Parboil the broccoli and cauliflower, and leave the fennel and mushrooms raw. Cube the bread.

Cube the Gorgonzola and grate the Gruyère. Cut the garlic clove in half, and rub the inside of the fondue pot. Mince the remainder.

Heat the cider and minced garlic over medium heat till liquid begins to bubble, turn the heat down, and begin adding the cheeses slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon: Gruyère first, then the Gorgonzola. When it is all melted, dissolve flour in the Poire Williams and stir in. Check the seasoning, and add pinches of sea salt if need be.

Serve with apple cider, an American pale ale, a crisp northern German Pilsener, or a dry/off-dry Riesling.

Aged Gouda and Doppelbock Fondue

Ingredients:

  • .7 lb. aged Gouda, grated
  • .3 lb. Gruyère, grated
  • .2 lb. Emmenthal, grated
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup Doppelbock
  • ¼ cup Amontillado Sherry
  • ½ shallot, diced finely
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. sherry (Amontillado or Oloroso)
  • 2 tbsp. grainy German mustard
  • cayenne (pinch)
  • nutmeg (pinch)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 loaf sourdough bread, rye bread, or country bread (cubed)

Directions:

Cube the bread and grate the cheese. Mix the flour into the grated cheese. Heat the beer and sherry till it bubbles. In a separate pan, melt the butter and sauté the shallots. Add the shallots to the bubbling liquid, then slowly incorporate the cheeses. Add the pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Once melted, finish with the sherry-mustard mix. (If fondue doesn’t appear thick enough, dissolve more flour in the sherry-mustard mix). Check seasoning, and add sea salt if needed.

Fondues aren’t for those watching their waistlines, and this one’s at the far end of the richness scale. I find that Doppelbocks aren’t the best accompaniment – too much of a good thing. Try a Hefeweizen, or a lighter Weizenbock like Weihenstephan’s Vitus. A glass of Amontillado complements this dish wonderfully.

Swiss Fondue (Family Recipe)

Ingredients:

  • .5 lb. Emmenthal, grated
  • .5 lb. Gruyère, grated
  • 1 cup dry and fruity white wine
  • 1-2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 tbsp. Kirsch
  • freshly ground nutmeg (pinch)
  • freshly ground black pepper`
  • 1 loaf french bread, cubed

Directions:

Cube bread. Grate cheese, and mix with flour. Rub fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat till it simmers. Reduce heat. Slowly stir in the grated cheese.

Image Source: www.switzerlandcheese.ca

Image Source: www.switzerlandcheese.ca

Once the cheese has incorporated into the wine, add the kirsch. (If the fondue appears runny, dissolve a bit of flour into the kirsch beforehand). Stir in freshly-ground black pepper and nutmeg, then transfer to fondue burner. Et voilà.

Beverage choices for this kind of fondue are fairly wide open. White wine from Swiss, German, Austrian, or eastern French regions are typical accompaniments, but you could also opt for a red wine like a Beaujolais, even a lighter Pinot Noir. As for beer, try an aromatic and lower-IBU American IPA, or a southern German Pilsener.

Guten Appetit!

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Zermatt Image Source: Wikipedia

Fondue Pot: F.D. Hofer

© 2014. F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.