SHF #2- Cider House Rules

by Jeanne

Apple The challenge for me with today’s Sugar High Friday was not to bake an apple pie.  I worried that I would distinguish myself from the crowd.  So I took another route with apples and sugar with Apple Cider Pound Cake. A great fall interpretation of a kitchen classic.  Thanks for hosting Domestic Goddess!

Real cider, the dark fragrant kind—not the pale you-can-see-through-to-the-bottom-of-the-glass kind is fall personified.  I found it curious recently when I read a research statistic from, The NPD Group Inc, that stated that only 1.5 of Americans drink apple cider.  Some of my most vivid food memories growing up in New England are centered around crisp afternoons driving to apple orchards and of pressing fresh cider at Drumlin Farms. 

For the most part, apple “juice” is clear, amber-colored, filtered and pasteurized –it is found on the supermarket shelf. It does not need to be refrigerated before opening.  Apple cider is the cloudy, caramel-colored, and unfiltered pressed juice of apples. Also, all apple juice sold today as cider isn’t necessarily "fresh" cider.  Most juice sold in supermarkets is pasteurized, or heat-treated to destroy bacteria. Untreated juice is required to have a label saying so.

Countries producing cider fall into the temperate regions of the world. By the beginning of the ninth century, cider drinking was well established in Europe. Normandy, Brittany, Wiesbaden, the Basque region of Spain, Ireland and Britain introduced the craft of producing cider to America, Canada, Australia to name a few.

Early English settlers who brought seeds for cultivating cider and apples on their journeys introduced cider drinking in America. During colonial times, hard cider was one of America’s most popular beverages. According to historians, the volume of cider produced often judged a town’s prosperity. Consumption increased steadily during the eighteenth century, only to plummet dramatically after 1919, with prohibition.

The best cider is made from a balance of apples that has tang and boy balanced against sweetness. Quality cider makers press only sound, ripe apples.  Farming wisdom counsels against using apples that have fallen to the ground. 

Cider is a word that can mean different things to many people. The root meaning, from the Old French sidre, is defined as  "the fermented juice of the apple." Here in the U.S.,  up until Prohibition, "cider" referred to  hard cider, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting sweet cider. Most fermented cider measures only 3 to 5 percent alcohol (compared to 11 or 12 percent for most wine). Since the early 1990s the country has been in the middle of what could only be called a cider renaissance. 

France is the world’s largest cider producing country. French regulations require that the drink is made from fresh apples or a mixture of apples and pears. Traditional French cider is light, sparkling and is usually bottled in a in champagne-like bottle.  The French region of Breton produces a sweet “cidre”. Basques prepare a cider with flavors of green apples, vanilla, plum and honey. Spanish cider is usually bottled and corked in conventional-style wine bottles.

Leading the French artisan cider movement is former sommelier for three-star Paris restaurant, Arpége, Eric Bordelet. Bordelt’s handcrafted cider production is limited and includes four types of apple cider and two of poiré (pear).  Argelette is sold in the U.S. under the name Sydre Crémant de Viking and is orange-amber in color. Tasting notes refer to it as “lively on the plate, with fine bubbles and a flavor suggesting honey, apples, minerals, and citrus.  What a divine light supper this drink would make when served with liver pâté, sautéed pears and elegant wispy crackers.

The Michelangelo of here in the States is Sonoma importer-entrepreneur Jeffrey House who was the first to commercially produce and distribute hard cider domestically. Ace Cider is located in the middle of wine country and also sits at the center of Gravenstein apple region.  His press also has on site the country’s first cider pub.  On the menu is cider sampler called the Four Aces.  It features ciders of apple; apple honey (made with Sonoma wildflower honey); pear (apple and pear); and berry (apple and a blend of raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries).   These ciders with about 5% alcohol are sold nationally—according to their website pear is the most popular.  I’d like to pair a selection of cheese with the pear cider.

Another ciderie to that’s launching new ciders is Rabbit’s Foot Meadery located in Santa Clara County California.  It’s niche in the industry as it applies modern wine making methods to ancient honey-based recipes. "Cyser," as it has been known throughout history, is a blend of honey and apple juice dating back to the Middle Ages.  This week they announced the release of a new Red Branch line of hard cider products. The products include their Extra Dry Hard Apple Cider, Sweet Cyser and Black Cherry & Honey Cider. Blackberry, Raspberry and Pear products are due for release in January 2005.

The recipe I’ve selected below is Apple Cider Pound Cake which I drizzled with dulce de leche.   I’ve also include two links—one for a cider press much like the one at Drumlin Farms, the other, well, something practical to do when you replace your washer machine—complete with diagrams.

Links:   Jaffrey 8400 Cider and Wine Press 

The Maytag Cider Press

Apple Cider Pound Cake
Based on a recipe from Southern Living
Yield: 1 (10-inch) cake.

1 1/2 cup butter — softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir together all dry ingredients; set aside. Combine cider and vanilla. 

Add dry ingredients alternately with cider mixture to batter. Mix until well blended. Spoon into a greased 10-inch angel food cake pan or fluted tube pan. Bake at 325 F for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until cake tests done.

Cool in pan 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on a rack.