The Theory of Cheese and Cyder

As anyone who has done any statistics will know, to prove a theory you have to set out to disprove it. It’s called the negative hypothesis, and you keep on at it until you have failed enough times to prove that the theory is actually right.

So here’s a theory I have been extolling for a while now; there is no drink on the planet that goes better with cheese than cider. And without actually putting this to the test, there are some very good grounds on which to believe this theory would hold true.

Let’s go back to the very essence of the raw material – our apples. Unlike a vineyard, with its neat and low slung rows, a high canopied orchard offers the perfect grazing area for cows, sheep and goats. With the trees being tall enough so that the lower branches can’t get damaged and the fruit on them cannot be eaten, livestock can spend all summer keeping the grass neat and tidy, only needing to be moved to pasture 6 weeks or so before harvest.

Unleash livestock into a vineyard, and the winemaker would have fifty fits – it would be carnage, such would be the damage caused to the vines by the hungry and lumbering beasts. No no no, that would be a terrible idea. Not so in the orchard.

But here’s the really symbiotic bit – the cows, sheep and goats eat grass and are fed by the same nutrients that feed the tree. The cow produces milk, the tree produces apples; make cheese from the milk, cider from the apples, and you have an intertwined food relationship that no grape or grain equivalent can get anywhere near.  I mean it’s so obvious it has to be true right? Right?

Strange as it may seem, it’s not actually a hypothesis I have put to the test that extensively, but in the interests of good science and statistics, I took it upon myself to do so for the greater good of, well, myself primarily. And as every good experiment needs sound and objective ratification, I pulled in the cheese guru that is Eric Charriaux, proprietor curator of La Cave au Fromage.

Clipboards and white coats at the ready, we set off to prove the negative hypothesis that cheese and cider absolutely do not go together, and to do so we were going to have to eat lots of cheese and drink lots of cider. I love statistics.

Actually, the truth is, I’ve never really liked statistics, primarily because I’m not very good at the theory of them. And as Eric and I slurped, swirled, nibbled and tasted our way through a variety of combinations, I understood what deep down I knew already; this is not something that needs to be quantified scientifically, it just needs to be enjoyed sensorially.

And whilst there is definite merit in the terroir argument of livestock feeding in the orchards – if you don’t believe me, the Normandy combination of a ripe Camembert and Douche de Longeuville cider is all the proof you need – cider is a great all-rounder, and such is its range it really will go with just about any cheese. We certainly didn’t find a cheese that doesn’t have a perfect cider partner; and the principles are pretty straightforward – match a sharp cheese to a sharp cider, a soft delicate cheese to a sweeter, lighter cider, and you have the basis of a matrix for overlaying the perfect cider on top of your perfect cheese.

My only word of instruction though; this simply does not work if you use mainstream cider and mainstream cheese. You need to be using the best of both, so you will unlikely find the cheeses you need widely available – find a good cheese supplier like La Cave au Fromage or Neal’s Yard who handle un-pasteurised cheese – this really is key; and make sure your cider is high juice and not made from concentrate; anything less will simply come up short.

For some good pointers, have a look at the best combinations Eric and I came up with on our journey on my blog: Great Cheese & Cyder matches.

Join us – you won’t be disappointed; I can statistically guarantee it!