We believe that good cider pairs with food more broadly than any other kind of alcohol, wine included. Its versatility with food comes from how diverse cider can be and the kinds of components it can have; from providing big bold fruit flavours to sharp acidity, tannic bitterness, sumptuous sweetness, floral delicacy, savoury buttery tones, bone dryness or even spice, to name but a few.
So, what can you pair cider with? Well the first things to say is that I genuinely feel that you cannot truly know if a combination works without trying that specific pairing. So while you can make some general rules, and spot some trends, the answer is never certain until you try it! And when it comes to pairing drinks with food, some people like to just use terminology that looks to make a science out of it, even suggest there is one right answer and all you need to do is understand more about something like 'umami'. While there can be great merit to such a way of thinking, we feel it doesn't really help make pairing more accessible; it doesn't really help members of the public get started with really good pairing. So we prefer this rule of thumb and experience-based approach: get stuck in, think as you eat and drink, and start connecting the dots, as each and every one of us has a lifetimes taste dictionary, in our heads, from all we have ever eaten and drunk, ready to use...
So let's give you some examples, and ideas, from our experience to use as a starting point: everybody pretty much knows the classic combination of red wine with steak (and cider with pork). Well some of the key components in red wine are tannins, and fruity, berry flavours. Try swapping that red for a dry Herefordshire cider, which similarly has some lovely tannins and latent fruit flavours. A key element of cider, which is often a factor in pairing food with white wine, is acidity! The acidity of cider is great at cutting through the fat in foods, cleansing your palate and enhancing what you are eating; so think meat, cheese, creamy dishes etc.
Cider made with non-traditional cider apples can be great with lamb, for example, or any dishes that you might add lemon or want some herbaceous flavours. Cider can also be really good with shellfish, be it actually in the dish (such mussels cooked in cider) or paired with something like crab or lobster; and perry can be really wonderful with white fish. Treat a Traditional Method cider as you would a sparkling wine or Champagne. And ice cider, well it easily fills a dessert wine role, or can be used as an after-dinner drink; we actually also love a nice chilled ice cider as an aperitif, before dinner; it's like another little course in itself, particularly if paired with some snacks, or a little cheese. And of course, the classic pork is not a pairing to be missed - but we'd add the cheeseboard to that, cider and cheese when paired well, can be heavenly!
But the key thing to know about pairing cider & food is everything is subjective - just because one person likes a combination, doesn't mean another will like it as much, and it's fascinating when we do events how the room can be divided, one half favouring one combination, the other a different pairing. The best way to do things is to experience them for yourself, so you can gain an instinct as to what ciders will pair well with what foods. You'll start to notice some rules of thumb that you love; knowing a certain style of cider paired really well with a certain dish before, so might go great with a different dish you are going to cook that has some similar things going on. Or once you get to know a certain apple variety, for its usual properties (like the savouriness of Dabinett, or the sharp tartness of Foxwhelp, or the herby smokiness of Yarlington Mill).
Pairing cider is a fascinating thing to do, and the pairings can really surprise you; there is always going to be the odd wild card that really works! Sometimes the cider will bring out or enhance a certain element of the food, or vice versa, but the best pairings are when both the cider and the food are enhanced and elevated by the combination. If what you are experiencing seems more complex, more satisfying, than drinking the cider or eating the food by itself, then you are really in the sweet spot.