I recently had the pleasure of hosting a fantastic event on behalf of my company, Farnum Hill Ciders. It was an evening of cider and delicious pairings like fried olives, duck pastrami, smoked salmon in choux puffs, and an apple chutney I made using, among other things, our own Extra Dry Still Cider. You may remember when I also used the Extra Dry Still in my cider braised chicken. I love to use this non-sparkling variety when cooking because its rich fruit and absolute dryness reduce and concentrate well.
What was once a common (and always alcoholic!) American beverage, cider’s flame was nearly extinguished with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, followed by Prohibition. At Farnum Hill, cidermakers Steve and Louisa Spencer have brought back this traditional American craft with a celebrated selection of dry, fruit-forward, and distinctively fragrant ciders that are versatile in nearly any occasion. Contrary to popular belief, cider is enjoyable far beyond autumn’s realm, and with a much wider breadth of cuisines than you may think. Sushi, Thai food, fish and chips, pulled pork, spicy kale and white bean soup–a few months ago, these were all foods I probably wouldn’t have considered eating with apple cider and are now some of my favorite pairings. These Scotch eggs we made in school would also be divine!
In the spirit of the “Uncommon” heirloom varieties grown at Poverty Lane Orchards (home of Farnum Hill Ciders), I came across some Esopus Spitzenberg apples that I decided would be perfect for my chutney (rumored to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, who knew?). Although the chutney appears on the sweet side, there are nice savory notes from the bay leaf and acidity from the cider and hint of fig vinegar (red wine vinegar may be substituted). The chutney deliciously complimented the cheeses of the night: a creamy Anton Liebe Rot (German cow’s milk), Twig Farm Fuzzy Wheel (Vermont cow and goat blend produced only in early spring), and the Tomette de Brebis Azkorria (French sheep’s milk cheese with a hint of saffron in the finish). It would also be delicious in a chicken salad sandwich!
Apple and Pear Chutney
2 sweet apples of your choice, peeled and finely diced
1 red d’anjou pear, peeled and finely diced
half a red onion, finely diced
1/3 cup Farnum Hill Extra Dry Still
3-4 tbsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
few drops of fig vinegar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. butter
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion, sweating until soft and translucent (do not color). Add the apples, pear, sugar, and cider, increasing the heat and stirring frequently for at least 30 minutes. After about 10 minutes, add the bay, vinegar, and salt, and continue cooking until desired consistency and taste. Remember to err on the side of caution with seasoning at the beginning, as reducing will concentrate flavor. You can always add more sugar if your fruit isn’t as sweet.