Cider: When in Normandy
By Kay Pfaltz
A group of stalwart travelers accompanied me through Normandy and Brittany, devouring not only the pastoral country and the works of Boudin and Monet, but also feasting on oysters, cheese, cider and calvados. My gastronomical advice to travelers is always the same: eat and drink the food and wine of the region. Since neither Normandy nor Brittany produces any A.O.C. wine, here, in the land of apple trees, we sampled cider.
Cider dates back to antiquity, the word coming from a Greek term for “intoxicating drink,” and the Normans have been making it since the Middle Ages. Much of the Breton or Normand cider-maker’s art lies in blending a number of different apple varieties to create balance and complexity. Not unlike grapevines, the older the apple tree, the less the yield, but the better the character of fruit. Low trees contain apples with more sugar, and driving through the country we saw orchards filled with them.
Much cider is still an artisanal, hand-crafted product, made without preservatives and often unfiltered, creating a complex taste. Texturally it resembles Champagne, and like Champagne, cider contains an acidity that makes it especially good with food. Styles of cider range from the doux (sweet) with aromas of apple, honey, cinnamon and candied fruits to the cidre brut, the raw cider, with less sugar and more alcohol. There is a demi-sec cider and also a cidre bouché which simply means a higher quality cider. The traditional cider has little sugar, and aromas of spices and flowers as well as yeast, wood, musty leaves, and cheese. Because of the lower alcohol content, cider is perfect on hot afternoons that linger into evening. The high-alcohol product is Calvados, a brandy made from apples, and good Calvados ranks with the best Cognac. In the old days on festive occasions, the Normans would bring some twenty-four courses to the table. Between the entrée (starter in France) and the plat (main course) there was a “trou” or hole, often lasting several hours, in which the custom was to drink Calvados—hence the expression, “le trou Normand.”
Like wine, cider offers an abundance of health benefits. A glass of cider a day may well keep the doctor away for apples have health-protective substances, including quercetin and other flavonoids that are linked to lower risks of cancer. Studies suggest interaction among different phytochemicals boost their effectiveness therefore cooking vegetables in a cider broth doubles the benefits.
It appears Nelson County is vying with Normandy for the best cider. Albemarle Ciderworks is a family owned farm dedicated to crafting cider from the distinctive apple varieties the Shelton family grows. Royal Pippin – Imported to England by Benjamin Franklin, the Albemarle Pippin is legendary. Writing from Paris in 1785, Jefferson stated, “They have no apples here to compare with our…Pippin.” This dry cider has a champagne-like quality which is capable of pairing with a wide variety of foods. $17 Also Jupiter’s Legacy, VA Winesap and Ragged Mountain. Look also for the new Bold Rock Cider coming soon.
No Portion may be copied or used in any other work.