Three centuries ago it was “English champagne”. A couple of decades ago it was better known as the stuff drunk on park benches. Today, cider‘s star is on the rise – sales are booming pub cider sales last year were up 1.6%, beer and wine down around 4%, and in supermarkets sales were up £84m to £822m. And while most supermarkets and pubs doggedly push major brands to the fore, the real boom is among smaller producers using traditional methods and a higher apple juice content.
It’s best known as a great, refreshing summer drink, but in winter mulled cider triumphs, with many decent pubs now offering it from November through to January’s wassailing season. It’s especially good with a shot of Somerset cider brandy – just one of many diverse products coming out of British cider orchards these days.
Given how well cider works with food, it’s no surprise that well-known chefs have been quick to capitalise on some of the great artisanal products around. Jamie Oliver visited Roger Wilkins‘ barn in Somerset in his last series, and cooked pork belly with Wilkin’s bone dry scrumpy. Rick Stein and the Hairy Bikers have recently championed the ciders and perries from Gregg’s Pit, and Mark Hix is currently enthusing about the versatility our orchards offer.
“If you’re going to cook with British ingredients,” he says, “cider … can offer a substitute for French brandy, sherry, port, even champagne.” He demonstrates this with a perry cocktail with pomona a mix of apple juice and cider brandy to accompany sardines marinated in cider vinegar and veal cutlets flamed in cider brandy.
Strange Random Cider Quote:
“We have everything here a scarecrow could want, the fall harvest, the beauty of the changing colors, apple cider, pumpkins and cornstalks.” – Mary Martin
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