From carving into pumpkin flesh to quartering Cornish game hen, cutting into hearty foods is a revered autumn ritual. Likewise, we often figuratively cut into the heft of this fall fare by pairing it with wines rich in tannins, organic compounds that largely make up a fermented beverage's body and dry flavor profile. In other words, sips that make us pucker.
But what about cleansing our poultry-gorged palates? For this, you need acidity, too. That's one of many reasons why Eve's Cidery's Autumn Stoscheck makes the case for popping open a crisp, sparkling cider. "It deserves a place at the American table alongside beer and wine," she defends. Not only is cider right in the middle of the two in terms of alcohol content, but it also has unique characteristics that serve well for food pairing. "[Cider] has the texture of tannin combined with a lot of bracing acidity, which you may get in a white wine -- but you don't get the tannins in a white wine."
While Stoscheck and her husband produce a still cider on their small orchard in Van Etten, N.Y., they specialize in crafting champagne-style ciders primarily because, at this point, consumers expect bubbles. Just don't confuse any of their nine original blends with six-pack hard ciders manufactured with glucose syrup and artificial flavors.
Eve's Ciders are made from upward of 30 apple varieties grown exclusively for brewing. It's harvest season in New York -- the second largest apple producing state in the U.S. -- and for Stoscheck that means the start of a new production cycle. "We press our apples in the fall as they ripen and do a primary fermentation, then we age them in the winter," she explains. "In the spring, we do a secondary fermentation which will result in natural bubbles and then we disgorge; the process [of removing yeast] is just like making grape champagne." And that impassioned, yearlong process pays off in taste. "We want the bubbles to give that elegant mouth feel that you only get with a natural fermentation," she says.
In a league of its own
Connoisseurs should note that locally made ciders differ from British or French ones because American cider farming is still in its adventurous youth, according to Stoscheck, who founded Eve’s Cidery just 10 years ago.
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“In the same way that there’s traditions around winemaking in the old world, it’s corollary with cider,” she says. “But we’re a young country. There’s a lot of reinvention going on.” This means that makers like herself have room to experiment, determining which apple varieties do and don’t grow in the region and ultimately how to best express the aura of the place in which they’re grown. The result is refreshing in more ways than one. “It’s all just now happening, emerging,” says Stoscheck, optimistically. “That’s the fun thing about trying local ciders. We’re inspired by European traditions, but we’re not bound by them.”
We gave Stoscheck three scenarios and asked her to recommend a complimentary cider.
You’re going to a dinner party with a mystery menu: “I would bring our Autumn’s Gold. It’s our driest and most tannic cider, and to me it represents what you can do with traditional English cider varieties. It pairs well with almost anything.”
You’re preparing a traditional Thanksgiving spread: “I would recommend our Northern Spy. It’s a single variety cider that’s made from a N.Y. state variety and it’s mineral-y and dry as well. It’s a really good palate cleanser for heavy stuff.”
You’re a cheese fiend who’s feeding the craving: “I would try the Rustica. We don’t add sugar when we disgorge; we top it back up with concentrated juice. So it has a fresh, juicy flavor but it’s alcoholic. It goes nicely with cheddar. If you were going to do something intense like an aged blue, I would recommend our ice cider, The Essence.”