Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Well, maybe just this once.
A little while ago, someone was asking about a hard cider that would go well with breakfast. Since it is a habit of ours to host a hard cider party every month, we sometimes do a specific food theme. Guess what one of the themes was? You guessed it, breakfast! A friend from out of town was arriving who loves breakfast, so the plan was set. The challenge was narrowing down the menu given all the food recipes we love for breakfast and pairing that with hard ciders.
Sometimes I make a hard cider recipe for a specific occasion. For example, I normally always do at least one hard cider specifically for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes they are obvious, like a cranberry hard cider recipe (Bitter Red), maybe a spiced hard cider recipe, and even an iced cider. I admit, breakfast food wasn’t something I was consciously thinking about when I developed my hard cider recipes. However, it didn’t take me long to have some really great options.
I started thinking about hard ciders with a touch of sweetness and good acid. I was also thinking floral and fruity. There are some interesting breakfast foods that would pair well with tannic hard ciders and even sours. Just think of some Mexican breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, and breakfast burritos. A hard cider with tannins or sour notes could pair well with these dishes. However, our thinking was going down a slightly more traditional American path with fruit salad, biscuits, gravy, quiche, cinnamon rolls, and such. That meant sweeter, acidic, floral, and fruity hard ciders would be better.
Some of my first ideas were perrys. Not familiar with what perry is? Perry is a hard cider made with at least 51% pear juice. Apples and pears can be mixed and interchanged in hard cider. They are both pome fruit, and they have similar sugar levels and believe it or not, there are perry pears just like there are cider apples. These have more tannins and can be more acidic. However, one key difference between pears and apples is that pears have more naturally occurring sorbitol. Why is that important? Sorbitol is a sweetener that doesn’t ferment. If you are drinking perry, it will naturally have a little more sweetness than a hard cider.
My next thought was a cyser. What is a cyser? A cyser is a hard cider that has had honey in it. I like to think of a cyser as something with at least 51% apple juice and some amount of honey. It might also have other fruits but apples are still the dominant contributor to the sugar. If your honey becomes dominant, you would really be making an apple flavored mead. I have made a variety of cysers using buckwheat honey, neem honey, tupelo honey, and orange blossom honey. That was a test for my friends, but I’ll cover that in another post. I’ve also made mixed cysers like my rhubarb cyser. My only challenge was that I realized my cider closet was not currently stocked with the floral cysers I thought would pair well.
I did have a nice offering of adjunct hard ciders made with berries. Rock’n Raspberry is awesome with a nose of raspberry, a taste of tart raspberry with good carbonation, and a nice acidic finish that would be a great palate cleanser for gravy. Strawberry Blush would be similar. I even had a couple small bottles of my sparkling prickly pear hard cider: Prickly Apple. Add my Bitter Orange hard cider, and I could cover about any food pairing we chose. However, I had another interesting idea.
I had a stash of Elderflower hard cider. This was a cider inspired by our trip to England and several days driving through Somerset sampling hard ciders while visiting places like Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor. For me, elderflower has a great floral bouquet, but it also has what seems like a natural sweetness. The elderflower hard cider would be a great pairing for the blueberry coffee cake with honey vanilla bean ice cream. I also knew I had a couple perrys from Somerset, England. Linking in our England trip to an American breakfast party may seem odd, but when you consider the tastes, it would be perfect.
I also had another thought. I could juice some oranges and make prickly pear hard cider mimosas to start us out with the appetizers. I only had a few small bottles but it would be plenty to whet our appetites. Like I normally do, I’d also offer a variety of other hard ciders including my fruity hard ciders like Rock’n Raspberry as alternatives for people to try. Most people like us to pair the hard cider, but also have their favorites or own preferences given their palate. We try accommodate everyone.
My wife is the main cook for these events with my contributions being the hard cider and a dish or two. For this party, I made my classic cinnamon rolls. I top them with a vanilla mascarpone icing that is light and fluffy without being too sweet. However, the stars of the food menu for me were the sourdough biscuits and sausage gravy along with the fruit salad with honey lime dressing. Nobody left hungry, and everyone left with a couple bottles of hard cider for later consumption. Here’s the full menu.
While you can find links to many of the hard ciders recipes embedded in the above text, you can go to the hard cider recipe link to explore all my posted hard cider recipes. For those who enjoy the food aspect, here is the recipe to our sourdough biscuits and sausage gravy.
Servings: 6-8 Biscuits
1 cup sourdough starter discard (220 grams) direct from refrigerator is ideal
1-1.5 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. (Grease pan if no parchment is available).
Cut the cold butter into 1 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt until crumbly.
Add the starter and gently mix into the butter and flour mixture. Add up to 1/2 cup of flour to make dough slightly wet but capable of being rolled. You can also add a teaspoon of cold water if the dough is too dry.
Roll the dough, ideally on cool natural stone or floured surface. Target 1-1.5 inches thick.
Cut into 2.5-3 inch circles. If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, consider making square biscuits. Reform the scraps and cut additional biscuits until no scraps remain.
Place the biscuits in the parchment lined baking sheet with approximately 1 inch spacing.
Bake the biscuits for 18-20 minutes or until the tops become slightly browned.
To keep warm, wrap in a towel lined dish. Split in half for gravy or jam.
1 pound sausage (we normally make our own using 93% lean organic turkey and adding various spices)
1/3 cup organic wheat flour
1/2 cup organic cream
3 cups organic whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Brown sausage over medium heat. Reduce the heat.
Add about 1/2 flour and stir to combine. Add cream and stir to combine.
Add remaining flour and stir to combine.
Add the milk and constantly stir until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
Keeping heat low, let the gravy thicken stirring regularly. This can take 10-15 minutes. Adding more milk will thin the gravy if it gets too thick.
To serve, spoon the gravy on warm split biscuits.
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