Appetites: Rediscovering hard cider

Judges at a cider competition
Judges evaluate cider at a competition during the summer of 1950 in England. Hard cider also has a long history in America because apples grow well here.
Edward G. Malindine / Topical Press Agency / Getty Images 1950

Hard cider is one of the world's most popular and oldest drinks. In America, the making of cider dates to pre-Colonial times when water was foul and fermented cider was considered a safe beverage.

In recent years, artisans have rediscovered the craft of hard cider brewing with unique ciders popping up everywhere apples are grown.

Beth Dooley, author of "Minnesota's Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook," joined MPR News' Tom Crann to talk about Minnesota's hard cider makers.

Dooley says good hard cider apples are not edible fresh, but when pressed and fermented they add balance and help make the cider bright, aromatic, refreshing and complex.

The biggest cidery in the Twin Cities is Sociable Cider Werks, but there are smaller farmstead cider makers sprinkled around the state, including Keepsake Cider in Northfield, Minn.

Hard cider producers in Minnesota:
The Cyder Market, Multiple locations
Sociable Cider Werks, Minneapolis
Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery, Spring Valley
Leidel's Apples, La Crescent
Sweetland Orchard, Webster
Tin Shed Cider Company, Fairbault
Welsh Heritage Farms and Harbo Cider, Lake Crystal

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The wide variety of flavor profiles makes hard cider interesting, says Dooley.

For example, Leidel's Cider by the Cidery in LaCrescent, Minn., brews ciders inspired by Lambic beer. Sociable Cider Works uses a blend of local apples with some sweet and others very dry. Sweetland Orchard in Webster, Minn., offers a range of both sweet and hard ciders. Some of Sweetland's ciders are very fruity others, while others are blended with crab apples to be quite dry. Their Scrumpy Sweet is a favorite - sweet and light, great for a picnic.

Dooley also shares a few recipes for cooking with hard cider.

Pork roast with apples and fennel in cider sauce

Serves 6 to 8

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

1 head garlic, broken into cloves

1 3-pound boneless pork roast

2 cups hard cider

1 large apple, cored and sliced

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rub the roast with a mixture of salt, pepper and rosemary. Cut the cloves into slivers and using a sharp knife, make cuts into the meat to stuff with the garlic. Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan and put into the oven. Roast, undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Open the oven and add about ½ cup of the cider, lower the heat to 325 degrees and continue roasting, adding ¼ cup of cider every 15 minutes or so. Baste the roast with any liquid that accumulates on the bottom of the pan.

Start checking the roast after about 1-1/2 hours of cooking. When it's done, an instant read thermometer will register about 145 degrees. Remove the roast to a warm platter. Put the roasting pan on the stove over one or two burners set to medium high heat. Reduce the liquid to about half, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any accumulated brown bits.

When the sauce is reduced, stir in the fresh apple slices and add a little butter or cream if desired. Slice the roast and serve with the sauce drizzled overall. Garnish with the chopped fresh parsley.

Cider braised red cabbage and apples

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds red cabbage, trimmed and shredded

1 pound tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 stick cinnamon

½ cup hard cider

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a large, deep skillet, saucepan or casserole. Add the cabbage, apples, and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring until the cabbage is blossy, about 3 minutes.

Add liquid. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or more, until the cabbage is tender and the apples have fallen apart. If the mixture dries out, add a little more liquid.

Season with salt and pepper. Discard the cinnamon stick before serving.