Cider And Cheese Pairings For Any Occasion

A technique review in honor of #WineAndCheeseDay

It’s a perfect summer morning in the Pacific Northwest. As I stroll into work my mind wanders. Stopping for a shady moment under an apple tree heavily weighted with delicious glowing orbs I am suddenly struck with the desert island question. What drink would I take with me? Cider definitely. Ooh, and cheese too! But, which cheese with which cider?! I could be on this island a long time. I need to get it right. 

While cheese and cider can never really be wrong in my mind, there are a few basic techniques to help you to choose pairings that will bring out the best qualities in both the cider and the cheese. Please understand that these are techniques to help guide you and that there will always be exceptions that may not be the best pairings. 

● Match intensity: Align intense ciders with intense cheeses and mild cheese with less intense cider. Intensity in food and cider refers to its mouthfeel, which depends on things such as sugar, acid, salt, spice, etc. We get the classic ice cider and blue cheese pairing from this technique. 

● Terroir Matching: “If it grows together it goes together.” Sometimes the cheese and the cider are even from the same farm. 

● Complement: Pair similar aromas and flavors in both the cider and the cheese. 

● Cut: Use the acidity of a cider to cut through the fat of the cheese. 

Using these methods, you can take any cider no matter its perceived elegance and create a cheese pairing that is excellent for any occasion. 

For an evening of camping, grab yourself a 6-pack of canned berry-forward cider and a creamy mild cow’s milk cheese to savor a deliciously uncomplicated match. 

If an evening in with friends is on the agenda, maybe a large-format, bottle-conditioned, tannin-forward cider would be better suited. Accompany it with an aromatic sheep’s milk cheese ideally from the same growing region. 

For more advanced cider and cheese pairings we call upon the building blocks of creating taste balance. Balance in intensity as well as balance across the palate, essentially creating the perfect swish, bite and swish.

  • Contrast: This pairing is designed to stimulate and intrigue the palate. You are looking for opposing flavors and aromas. 
  • Complete: Either the cider or the food to complete or fill in any of the 5 main tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) that either the cider or the food does not already contain.

By starting with basic pairing techniques, you are now well equipped to experiment. Don’t be afraid to put your palate to the test and try adding unique ingredients to both contrast and complete both the cider and the cheese. These can include fresh herbs, dried fruits, local honey, nuts, edible flowers or locally grown fresh fruits. 

Here’s an advanced example using both techniques: pair baked brie topped with fresh maple syrup and crispy bacon crumbles with a sparkling tannin-forward cider. Score even more points if the bacon came from a pig that grazed in the same orchard where the cider was produced. 

To review, these techniques will help you create amazing cider and cheese pairings: match intensity, terroir matching, complement, cut, contrast, complete. Follow these basic guidelines and your cider and cheese pairing will be the perfect match for any occasion.

Author Jennie Dorsey is the Chief Cider Curator of Schilling Cider House PDX, a member of American Cider Association’s Certified Cider Professional Working Group, and a founding member of the Pomme Boots Society.

Photo by Alli Fodor.

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