We’re a nation of cider drinkers, loving it on ice in summer, mulled for winter and in pint-sized portions all year round. But the sweet, fruity and tangy nature of the apple- or pear-based drink means it can be used in sweet and savoury recipes to great effect.
Whether you’re partial to a cloudy cidre Breton, prefer a can of flavoured fizzy stuff, or avoid it like the plague, cider is certainly a drink worth talking about. The large range of products that fall under the umbrella category of cider are incredibly distinct, meaning with a little digging, most people will find something to suit their palate. But, if you’re firmly in the ‘no’ camp, cider can still be enjoyed in cooking – in fact, some people would say it’s the best way to showcase its flavour. Not sure what to match it with? Follow our lead with these winning combinations...
How to cook with cider…
It’s understandable why chicken is the most popular search term across bbcgoodfood.com – its versatility and ease of cooking mean it can be teamed with a spectrum of sauces and seasonings. Cider, mustard and herbs are a holy trinity of flavours, and we’ve adapted the delicious formula in two different ways…
We’re huge fans of flavour contrast, and pork and apple might just be one of our favourite combinations. Add this novel recipe to your campsite repertoire – cider, honey and mustard are reduced to a sticky glaze to coat a cartwheel of sausage. Serve with a contrasting rustic slaw and add an extra layer of nighttime insulation with help from a steaming mug of hot caramel malted milk.
Gravy sometimes needs a helping hand, and if yours lacks the necessary pizzazz, a glug of booze will usually provide a remedy. Cider sits in the middle ground between light, tangy white wine and rich, deep red, and it goes without saying that it complements roast pork a treat.
When it comes to gaily sloshing alcohol into savoury dishes, we usually apply a lighter touch when it comes to fruits of the water world. However, firm white fish, such as cod or pollock, has a neutral flavour that, depending on your palate, can require a bolstering from bold accompaniment choices. A fish stew is an ideal canvas for throwing in cider in place of wine, then experimenting with seasoning, herbs and vegetables.
… and shellfish
Apply the same principles to cooking with mussels. Try replacing the more traditional white wine in ‘moules mariniere’ with the same amount of cider. Let the alcohol burn off while steaming the shells open. Cream, ailiums and herbs all make sound additions – just make sure you serve plenty of bread to soak up the irresistible cooking liquor.
Whether you’re a fan of plump birds like grouse, pheasant and partridge, or prefer dense, iron-rich venison, game is about as meaty as you get. Balance out all that primal flavour with a slightly sweet sauce. Cider has enough of an acidic tang to cut through the buttery meat, while its fruity undertone is just the right side of sweet once reduced during cooking.
With pork belly
A failsafe way to achieve the perfect ratio of crunchy cracking and soft meat is to pre-cook belly pork in a water bath. Treat it as you would a stock by adding celery, carrots, onion and herbs, but use a touch of cider to impart a subtle sweetness to the meat. Completely submerge the joint in its bath and leave to slow cook. For a professional finish, press the meat and pan-fry to give a neat, crackling square.
To braise vegetables
Add a new dimension to steamed vegetables by cooking them in cider. Preserve the apple flavour by adding the liquid at the end of the cooking process, allowing the alcohol to cook off slightly but leaving a decent boozy hit. The method can be used for most green leaves – try Savoy, red or white cabbage, curly kale or chard.
Mastering the fondant potato carries you one step further to being a professional-standard chef. This restaurant favourite is an underrated, but highly decadent, way to serve your spuds. Once you’ve basted your potatoes in a butter glaze, transfer to the oven and add cider to reduce to sticky sauce.
Team the classic flavours of Christmas with fruity cider – the drink matches perfectly with warm spices, winter fruit like quince or cranberries and roasted meat. Roast your big bird in a bath of cider – it’ll steam the meat while cooking, plus with help from leeks and carrots, makes a delicious base for gravy. If you’re still hankering for cider after that, get mulling.
A wise cook knows, a gammon is for life, not just for Christmas! If you’re enamoured with the porcine treat, pick up a joint at any time of year. This recipe uses cider in the poaching liquid, before using the reduced liquid to make a creamy parsley sauce
Use British ingredients in a classic French dish by swapping wine for cider and gruyere toasts for cheddar croutons. The cider will bring out the natural sweetness of the onions, with help from a little golden caster sugar.
Are you a fan of cider and do you ever use it in cooking? We’d like to hear your recipe ideas…