Put the port down and make room on the dinner table, cider and cheese are officially getting it on.
It may sound unusual if you haven't come across it before but pairing cider and cheese is a match made in heaven.
The rapid rise of hard cider sales in the US (our friends in Amercia call non-boozy apple juice cider, and term the fermented beverage hard cider to avoid confusion) has no doubt had an impact while here in the UK, cider makers are quietly promoting it as the ideal food accompaniment.
Seeing as Herefordshire is the land of plenty when it comes to both cider and cheese, we pestered Westons and The Mousetrap Cheese Shop to tell us more.
Photo: Herefordshire Live
Ably assisted by Claire, who runs the Mousetrap Cheese shops in Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow, and Becky, technical manager at Westons, we spent an afternoon at Westons Cider Mill in Much Marcle, working our way through 4 Westons ciders and a whole load of local cheese.
Here are our winning combinations...
Henry Westons Vintage with Dorstone
The Henry Westons Vintage was the closest to being compared with wine.
Becky explains: "It is made with bittersweet cider apples and is high in tannins, much like wine. This makes it rich, full bodied and complex, and it is aged in oak vats, which adds to the flavour."
The Dorstone was the favourite cheese of the day, popular around the table and with the odd staff member who ‘happened’ to stroll by. It's a smooth and creamy goats cheese, made by Neal Yard's Creamery in Dorstone, which worked really well with the Henry Westons. As it had plenty of tannins, the cider cut through the protein in the cream and acted as a palate cleanser - bringing out more of the tangy taste of the cheese.
Dorstone goats cheese, made by Neal's Yard Creamery in Herefordshire. Photo: Neal's Yard.
Stowford Press with Little Hereford
Stowford is described by Becky as a relaxing, thirst-quenching easy drinking cider. Made from 100% local apples, you may remember it from many a beer garden (or you may not, depending on length of time spent there).
It matched well with another easy classic, Little Hereford. The Little Hereford is a smooth cheese with a medium taste handmade at the Monkland Dairy near Leominster. And if you want to talk about tradition, this cheese is made using an 1917 recipe which was found in an attic in the mid-90s.
Together, the two would probably go down well with anyone.
Wyld Wood with Finn
Wyld Wood is an organic cider, or a ‘raw’ cider with a complex nature, bursting with bold and unique flavours that you wouldn’t expect. Claire matched it perfectly with the Finn cheese.
Finn, another one made by Neal's Yard Creamery, looks like brie (gooey and creamy) but delivers quite a different flavour. Wyld Wood also worked well with the Blue Monk, a quite mild and creamy blue cheese. Both really brought the flavours of the organic cider out.
Old Rosie with Y Fenni
Old Rosie is a cloudy cider and unfiltered, so remnants of yeast to add to flavour. Becky describes it as “dry, acidic and complex” which is why it's often recommended for curries and spicy, bold flavours. With that in mind, Claire suggested we try it with the Y Fenni.
Made in Abergavenny where it takes its name from, Y Fenni is a Welsh cheddar-style cheese blended with mustard seeds and beer. The combo really worked, making the cider smoother and even more delicious. We heartily recommend you make a cheese toastie with the Y Fenni (a cheat’s Welsh Rarebit) and wash it down with a pint of Old Rosie.
In fact, Old Rosie worked with a few of the cheeses. Another great combination was with the Hereford Hop - a tangy cheese you probably recognise from many a burger menu in Hereford.
Photo: Westons, via Facebook