The word “cider” encompasses a lot in America. It can reference the deliciously sweet, non-alcoholic juice found at an apple orchard in the fall, or the soda-adjacent alcoholic version that floods store shelves and tap lines. But it also includes a category of grower-focused ciders that are rich in history and rival their European counterparts in terms of quality.
While some cidermakers have brought over European apples to make expressions that harken the apples’ original homes, a host of varieties native to the states are paving the way for truly American ciders. These varieties, like Newtown Pippin, Baldwin and Golden Russet, offer a balanced mix of acid, tannin and aromatic compounds that yield fruity yet crisp ciders. They range from dry to medium-sweet and can be sparkling or still. The sparkling variations are often the most compelling, especially if they are bottled in the traditional method, which adds a savory, yeasty quality not unlike Champagne.
Courtesy James Rigato, chef/owner, Mabel Gray, Detroit
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- Pinch salt
- Dash hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- 24 fresh oysters, shucked
- Panko, to garnish
- Nuóc Châm (ingredients and directions below)
Heat oven to 450˚F.
Whisk or use fork to mash together butter and miso. Add salt and hot sauce, to taste.
Add 1 teaspoon of miso butter to 12 oysters, top with panko breadcrumbs and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 8–10 minutes. Serve hot but be careful.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of Nuóc Châm onto each of remaining 12 oysters and serve raw. Serves 4.
Combine ¾ cup dry cider and ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in small pot, and bring just to simmer. Remove from heat, and chill. Once cool, add ¼ cup fish sauce, 2 grated cloves garlic, 1 minced jalapeño, 2 tablespoons thin-sliced chive. Serve chilled, and refrigerate any left over for up to 1 week. Makes 1½ cups.
At Mabel Gray in Detroit, Chef/Owner James Rigato is careful to use products grown, foraged and made in a way that reflects time and place. Sometimes that approach has led to pop-up dinners with New York-based Angry Orchard. For a special-occasion starter like these oysters, Rigato recommends the Angry Orchard Newtown Pippin, noting that the pairing is “clearly reminiscent of Champagne and oysters you’d find in a number of fine dining restaurants.” The sweet and savory elements of the two preparations sing in harmony with a fruity yet dry American cider.