A Perfect Pairing: Grilled Cheese and Hard Cider

With stay at home orders in place, I noticed that I’ve been using my wild sourdough starter to make a lot of sandwich bread loaves. I even made a multigrain variant that we used for egg salad and buns for smash burgers. The cool thing is that it is an easy recipe to make and it uses my homemade hard cider. This makes it a great option to include in a pairing and I think a great blog article. This pairing almost made my book but got pushed out by “Egg-ceptionally Salami Pizza and Elderflower Hard Cider”. Given my focus on making bread loaves, I decided it would be a great time to share this grilled cheese and hard cider pairing.

As always, I use organic ingredients for all my recipes so I’m not going to fill the page with organic. Just recognize that it’s an organic grilled cheese and organic hard cider. Also, if you’ve read any of my other articles, you might guess that the grilled cheese recipe has a few twists just like the hard cider recipe. Let’s explore how to make my Jalapeño Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese on Wild Sourdough Cider Bread and Pippin Magic hard cider. That’s a mouthful, but it’s a yummy mouthful that will expand your palate and leave you wanting more. Let’s start with the foundation of this scrumptious sandwich, the bread.

Wild Sourdough Cider Bread is a relatively easy sourdough that has a great crumb for sandwich bread. I use my wild sourdough starter that I feed each week and use the discard for this recipe. If you don’t have a sourdough starter or the time to make one, you can make a faster version with bread yeast. You just need to prepare it 24-48 hours in advance. This can be done by mixing one packet of bread yeast with 165 grams of flour and 165 grams of water and letting it sit covered someplace warm for 24-48 hours. The longer it sits, the stronger the sour.

Wild Sourdough Cider Bread
Wild Sourdough Cider Bread

Wild Sourdough Cider Bread

Servings: 2 Loaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (220g) sourdough starter (unfed)
  • 15 oz of room temperature hard cider (or 12 oz of cider and 3 oz warm water)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 6-7 cups bread flour

(Target 1900-2000 grams total weight or 900-1000 grams per loaf)

Steps:

Mix sugar, olive oil, salt, hard cider, and sourdough starter and wheat gluten together in a large bowl. Begin adding the flour and kneading the dough until you have a slightly soft dough but not sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise overnight at around 70F.

The next day, knead the dough for 10 minutes. Divide in half, form into loaves, and place into two greased 5 x 9 inch bread pans. Allow the dough to double in size (up to 8 hours). I usually place in my oven on proof, which can reduce this time.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and taps hollow. Turn out to cool on wire racks. I use a baking steel and have great results. Once cool, cut the loaves into 3/4 inch slices. You can freeze the bread and thaw it out a few hours before you want to make the cheese sandwiches or you can move right to the sandwiches.

Jalapeño Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese
Jalapeño Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese

Jalapeño Candied Bacon Grilled Cheese

Servings: 4 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 8 Slices of Bacon
  • 1 Jalapeño
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 8 Slices of Wild Sourdough Cider Bread
  • 4 Slices (4”x4”) Smoke Mozzarella Cheese
  • 4 Slices (4”x4”) Provolone Cheese
  • 4 Slices (4”x4”) Cheddar
  • 4 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • Garlic Aioli

Steps:

Dice the jalapeño (seeds included if you like heat) and place in a sauce pan with the sugar and water. On medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Place bacon on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake at 425F for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, brush the bacon with the jalapeño syrup. Bake another 4 minutes. Turn the bacon, brush again with jalapeño syrup and bake another 4 minutes or until desired level of crispiness is achieve. Remove and set aside to cool. It should look similar to this.

Jalapeño Candied Bacon
Jalapeño Candied Bacon

Spread garlic aioli on each of the inside surfaces of the sourdough bread. Lay the cheese on one side and place two slices of the jalapeño bacon on top of the cheese. Place the top piece of bread with the aioli side on the bacon. Brush the outside of the bread with melted butter and place butter side down on a hot griddle pan. Brush the top side with butter and cover with a dome. Cook low heat for 2 minutes or golden brown. Flip and cover with the dome and cook another 2 minutes or until golden brown. You can place the grilled cheese in foil or set in a warm oven and cover while you cook the other sandwiches.

Slice the grilled cheese as a triangle and add a soup, some fresh vegetables, or some potato chips (crisps for my English friends) if you want to take it up another notch. Serve this with a Pippin Magic hard cider.

Magic Pippin Hard Cider
Magic Pippin Hard Cider

Pippin Magic Hard Cider

Servings: ~1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Arkansas Black Apple Peels
  • 16 Pounds Newtown Pippin Apples
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pectic Enzyme
  • 2-3 Grams Mangrove French Saison Yeast (M29)

Steps:

  • Peel the Arkansas Black apples and place the peels in the bottom of the fermenter with the pectic enzyme. Note: You can freeze the peels and take them out when you want to use them. The peels have the highest level of tannins in the apple, and if you don’t have access to a lot of heirloom or cider apples, adding peels to batches can boost the tannins. You can press the Arkansas Black apples and make Black Magic hard cider.
  • Press and strain the Newtown Pippin apples into the fermenter.
  • Add Mangrove yeast, seal with airlock, and ferment until it stops bubbling and begins to clear (usually 2-3 weeks).
  • Rack the cider and age for at least 4 weeks but I recommend at least 8 weeks. Note: The peels will now be colorless with the tannins and color now transferred to the hard cider.
Post-Ferment Arkansas Black Peels
Post-Ferment Arkansas Black Peels
  • This hard cider should fall clear with time and the tannins in it will benefit from age so you can’t really age it too long.
  • When I’m ready to package this hard cider, I filter this through a 1.0 micron filter just to polish it, but not strip out the flavors or color. Cold crash it if you want to clear it more.
  • Once filtered, force carbonate the cider to 2.75 volumes of CO2, which is considered sparkling and what will help give it the head on the above picture.
  • Package, chill, and serve.
Magic Pippin Label
Magic Pippin Hard Cider: The Magic is in the Peel!

This pairing is comfort food you can hold in your hands. It touches so many of your tastes with the heat from the jalapeño, the sweet of the cheese and candied bacon, the tart and acid of the Newtown Pippin, and the astringent and phenolic nature of the Arkansas Black peels. You also get the crunch from the bacon and sourdough along with the gooey texture of the cheese and softness of the sourdough crumb. The garlic aioli will give it another depth of flavor. It’s so good, you’ll hope there are leftovers for tomorrow.

Did you enjoy this article? Follow me so you can get more hard cider recipes and tips as well as ideas for experiencing hard cider. Also, if you want to learn more about making hard cider, get my book. It covers all things hard cider as well as food and cider pairings like above.

It is that simple and there is no catch. I’m not going to sell your email or bombard you with unwanted requests to buy things. It will also give me a way to respond if you have questions about hard cider or need help with a batch. Stay safe, drink cider!

2 thoughts on “A Perfect Pairing: Grilled Cheese and Hard Cider

    1. So true! I made a wild starter about two years ago, and we have been using it ever since. I’ve only used packaged yeast to make my cinnamon rolls, which is a family tradition during the holidays. I’ve been thinking about mixing up that tradition this year and trying my starter.

      Cider is a really diverse beverage. You can use it in place of wine or beer in recipes or as a pairing because it has elements of both. Cheese and cider have been paired forever, just look the cider regions in England and France. Great places to visit once we get through this situation.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.