Charcuterie and Cider

July 8, 2013

Last summer in Normandy, France, we were enjoying a picnic and drink cider, and the cider was horrible. I thought it was infected with Bretomycies or something, as it had a sort of barnyard taste.

Well, I recently took another trip to Washington DC, of which I opened up a bottle of cider and was drinking it, and then we started eating our typical picnic food including cured meats, or charcuterie. I went to drink my cider, and it tasted horrible, just like my previous experience in France. Suddenly, a little light went off in my head – when I was drinking that “bad” cider I was drinking in France, I was also eating charcuterie! It wasn’t bad cider – it was a bad pairing!

Now the thing is, charcuterie is good with beer and is probably good with wine, but for some reason, it just brings out some icky flavors in cider. According to Wikipedia, fermented sausage such as salami does contain Lactobacillius, Leuconstoc, and other bacteria. Lactobacillius and Leuconstoc are actually used in red wine making to help raise pH and make wine less harsh. This method is available to cider makers, though most I know don’t really actively attempt it. Lactobacillius is also known for making yogurt, sauerkraut, and is even used to make sour beer. However, it is something added at the beginning of a fermentation, not after things are complete.

Really, I have no idea what is causing the bad pairing. I doubt it is the meat as cider is good with meat. I’m not sure it is the spices, either. I think it is the bacteria used to cure the meat, but I’m not positive. I just know from experience now not to eat dried cured charcuterie with cider.

I finally got on the smart phone bandwagon. In June, we have been to four beer/cider events, so I started looking into apps for tasting notes. As I see it, I could either haul around my tasting book all the time, or just take it to events. But what if I was out and about and come across something I wanted in my note book but didn’t have it with me? That’s where an app would be so much better: I always have my notes with me because I have my phone with me, but I wasn’t having to carry around an extra book to achieve this same thing.

For starters, there is nothing out there for cider, which makes me a little sad. I tried to use something like Google Docs to make a form based on the wine judging I’ve done, Blogger Cider Pages, and Andrew Lea’s Class and First Tier of Cider Flavour Descriptors. The result was that I still ended up grabbing my notebook because it was faster and easier to write in. This is kind of a shame, because my notes are not as through as they should be, so this really would have put me through the paces.

Moving on to beer, I ended up finding an app called Beeer (yes, there are three E’s in that name). There is a Lite version or a $0.99 version, which I got the full $0.99 version. It is pretty basic in that it has you enter the name, company, style, star rating, ABV, IBU, OG, TG, method of storage (bottle, can, draft, growler, cask), a beer wheel, allows you to take a photo, and then enter notes. I really liked the beer wheel, though I actually think for beer that it might actually be stopping me from thinking of other characteristics that might not be on the wheel. Maybe, because I’m a little slow with the keyboard, I wasn’t really taking additional notes. However, it is beer, which is not my strong suit, so this wheel did have me thinking about floral or citrus, etc, things I know I should be thinking about, but don’t actually do. This is actually the only app this company makes, which is unfortunate. I would really like it if they had one for wine or for cheese.

Which brings me to cheese, as two of the events I went to this past month were cheese tastings. The app I found was called Cheese Tasting Tracker (free version limits you to 25 entries). It is pretty simple in that it allows you to enter a name, producer, location, date, type, age, region, rating, and notes. Because I am a slow cell phone typer, and because I was liking the Beeer app with its beer tasting wheel, I abandoned this app in favor of a small tasting book called 33 Pieces of Cheese (The website lets you see exactly how the tasting pages are). Again, the tasting wheel is helping me develop my palette and maybe even expand my vocabulary on cheese, but I think some day it will hold me back.

I think there is a lot of potential for tasting apps out there that have yet to be tapped into. Too bad I don’t know more about programming to develop them!

What about you? Have you found some cider, cheese, beer, or wine tasting apps you like?

Cider News: June 2013

June 28, 2013

Cider news:

Other news of interest:

Last night, as part of Oregon’s Cider Week, Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider opened his new facility for a small cheese and cider pairing.

We got there a little bit early, and Burtle realized Rev. Nat had a cider called Sacrilege that was made with some sour cherries and lactobacillius. Basically, Burtle is a sucker for sour beers and loves the Spanish ciders, so he was curious how Rev. Nat did. This was actually a fairly mellow tasting. It hardly had any cherries in it, so it wasn’t like an over powering kriek.  The lacto wasn’t super in your face, either. I could see it going well with dinner or with desert. The wheels in Burtle’s head are turning.

Then we began with the tastings. They were all Reverend Nat’s cider paired with a cheese suggested by The Cheese Bar, the same man who does the Cheese and Beer Fest. In fact, that is how I knew about this event, as I said they needed to do a pairing with cider. They also said cider is easier than beer. The pairings were:

  1. 2011 Skyline Blend paired with Samish Bay’s Cheese’s Fresh Ladysmith. This actually ended up being my favorite cider and favorite cheese. The cheese was a semi-fresh cheese, though a bit on the salty side.
  2. 2011 Revival Dry paired with Fern’s Edge Dairy’s Mt. Zion. This is probably the first goat’s cheese I’ve tolerated in a long time, but I think it was because it was super aged for legal reasons.
  3. 2009 Revelation Kingston Black with Neal’s Yard Dairy’s Montgomery Cheddar. This was Burtle’s favorite cider, though I found it to be a little thin. As for the cheese, Burtle doesn’t really care for cheddar, but this one wasn’t so strong. Maybe we Americans do cheddar differently?
  4. 2011 Providence Traditional New England with Ferme Kukulu’s Pur Brebis au Piment d’Espelette. This was kind of a strange pairing. It was a spiced cider with added raisins and brown sugar to make it more of a Christmas drink paired up with a cheese containing pimentos. I never could get a solid feeling on what I felt about the pairing.

You know, for being told that cider and cheese is easier to pair up, I never really got that moment of wow. Maybe my expectations are wrong. In my head, I’m thinking this should be like how chocolate enhances the flavor of wine, but wine doesn’t really enhance chocolate. I kept waiting for that one cheese to make that one cider that much better, but I didn’t find it.

I’m just going to have to do more experimenting!

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This year’s Portland Cider Summit was bigger than ever, which actually posed quite a conundrum. I shouldn’t be complaining – it is the one event a year I get to go to where I can have cider. The next best thing is to actually go to a cider bar like Bushwhacker’s. But here’s the thing: there were over 100 ciders there, and trying to taste became overwhelming.

There were more local cider producers there, and think less imports. I’m guessing a third of those producers just came online in the last year. Each cider maker also brought at least three ciders, so there was quite a bit to choose from.

I went on both days. The first day, I was with some co-workers, which was a great way to do it. For $25, we each had our 10 tickets and a good tasting glass, so between the seven of us, we probably covered 30 different ciders. The next day, my husband Burtle and I went back to cover the ciders we wanted larger tastings of or felt we didn’t cover the company well enough.

Thing is, on the second day, when people found out we had been there the previous day, they would ask us what our favorites were. Really, I only got a sip or two of about 30 different ciders, and even though I took notes, taking only a sip or two of 30 ciders is hard to pick a favorite from. Just too many. What does stand out are the ciders with adjuncts, which is kind of sad. For starters, the British cringe at the idea of adding adjuncts, and there is something to be said about having that pure cider. Secondly, sometime adding adjuncts is a sign that something wasn’t completely right with the cider, so they are masking it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like adjuncts, but when those are what you remember, it gets a little sad.

It is ironic that I’m even complaining about this – too many cider offerings. It is a whiny way of me saying I had a very wonderful time, and I can’t wait for next year!

On Father’s Day, my husband Burtle, my friend, and a coworker of mine all went to the Portland Beer and Cheese Fest put on by The Commons and The Cheese Bar. In all fairness, by time my father decided he wanted to go, the tickets were sold out. Buy them early!

The ticket prices went up from when we went last year, from $25 to $32, but this is the second year, so it could have been adjusted for better cost recovery.  However, the format was still set up very much the same, where thy give you a kind of passport to get punched as you go from station to station. My co-worker said this is his favorite beer festival of the year. However, this passport actually makes me not think of it as a beer festival. It is definitely one of my favorite festivals of the year, but I don’t think of it as a beer specific festival. It isn’t about showcasing new and creative beers, but the pairings.

As for the cheeses, they varied a little bit, though I found most of them to be kind of middle ground flavors. I mean, some had more bite than others, but none of them were really stinky, robust, sharp, etc. A few times I switched out the cheese from the beer it was assigned and still found it to be just as good.

Again, I didn’t try all the beers, especially as the day wore on, but I did like Solera’s The Fez sour farmnouse blend, which was paired with an okay goat gouda from Central Coat Creamery. I surprised myself by finishing Upright Brewing’s Vienna Lager, which was paired with a cow cheese Mountina from Vintage Cheese Co. I actually ate all of the blue cheese from Rouge, which is very unusual for me.

We got there right as they opened, which is what we normally do. However, because they were not selling tickets at the door, there were a limited number of people, and they all seemed to come at the same time. Granted, it took a solid two hours for us to go through everything, but I think it might be worth it to hold off on going there until 3pm. However, there is something to be said about grabbing a table to set things down on to take notes, and, being a Sunday, having a little more time to sober up that evening. It is, technically, a school night.

This year for Dairy Month, I got ahold of the book Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher, published in 2013. Really, everything you need to know from this book can be found in the subheading “Making Marriage Work” in the Introduction chapter. While she briefly mentions the traditional cheese and beverage pairing from the same location before refrigeration and some other history, she gets into contrast and complement instead. To that, she begins talking about texture, intensity, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, and aroma in both the beer and cheese. She “distills” everything down into four guidelines, which are not geography dependent as the same region rule:

  1. Pair delicate beers with young, fresh, cheeses
  2. Pair malty beers with nutty or “sweet” cheeses
  3. Pair hoppy beers with tangy cheeses
  4. Pair strong beers with blue cheeses and hard aged cheeses.

The following chapters are then based on a style of beer. It goes through and describes the style and what to expect, and then a suggested specific beer to try. It then talks about the kind of cheese needed to balance that beer, and suggests the cheese. My husband Burtle flipped though it and didn’t like it being so beer centric. He knows beer and feels he doesn’t know cheese, so he would rather start with a cheese and try to figure out what kind of beer to pair it with. Thing is, when I flip though cheese making books, it never seems like people can get a good grasp on cheese styles with all the rind/no rind, firm/soft, aged/fresh, etc options out there. This book kind of ignores all that by starting with the beer first and then moving to the cheese. In fact, I actually finally got a good handle on the flavor profiles of beer, which I had never really thought of before. It covers Amber and Red Ales, American Pale Ales, Bareley Wine, Belgian-Style Pale Ale, Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale, Biere de Champagne, Bitter and Extra Special Bitter (ESB), Brown Ale, Double, Holiday Ale, IPA, Kolsch and Blonde Ale, Quad, Sison and Biere de Garde, Sours, Stouts, Porters, and Imperial Stouts, Triples, and Wheat Beers for the Ales. For the Lagers, she covers Amber and the California Common, Bock and Doppelbock, Maibock, Marzen and the Pilsner.

Of course, my interest was piqued in the Beligum Pale Ale chapter when she said they are like ciders, and then says she would pair cider with complementing cheeses “such as aged British farmhouse cheeses like Cheddar, Cheshire, and Caerphilly; or with Camembert, a cheese made in cider country.”

The book does have some tables, like what cheese goes with what beer and vice versa. It also has a Glossary and a Beer and Cheese Index.

I was viewing this book digitally and in color, but I found it to be a very interesting book. Burtle and I were discussing buying it as a digital copy. We are too afraid that if we bought the physical book, we would never read it, but if, say, we had access to it on a smart phone while we are out and about, it would be very useful. Granted, you kind of loose out on the charts a little, and the “flippablity” of just browsing the book is gone. Still, I think we will get this book.

Further Readings: Other books by Janet Fletcher