You’ve savored sliders with beer or wine, but what about cider? One of the most popular beverages in Colonial America (it’s why John Appleseed planted all those apple trees), cider is making a comeback with flavor and styles that are better than ever.
Best of all, cider is a versatile pairing partner thanks to its low alcohol content, carbonation, and natural fruitiness. Here are some tips on choosing your ciders and sliders as well as four flavorful pairings sure to spice up your next summer shindig.
Cider Pairing 101
Start with the sliders. The simplest way to choose your recipes is to think of what ingredients go well with apples. This includes pork, chicken, creamy cheeses, and spicy foods. Then match each slider with a good-quality cider.
Here are a few ways to structure your pairings:
- Complimentary flavors. Pick a cider with similar flavors and ingredients as your slider.
- Flavor intensity. Pick a cider with the same level of intensity as the slider. You can go big and bold or light and subtle.
- Contrasting flavors. Pick a cider that contrasts with the slider. For example, pair a hot, spicy dish with a sweet, fruity cider.
Like microbrews, ciders offer a wide range of styles and flavors to choose from, depending on what apples or other fermented ingredients and techniques are used. Here’s a quick rundown of the main styles you’ll find:
- Dry, Off-Dry, or Semi-Dry — Usually preferred by serious cider drinkers, these hardcore ciders have less sugar and more acidity. More traditional to the United Kingdom.
- Sweet or Semi-Sweet — Traditional to America and France, these ciders have more sugar and bigger apple flavors.
- Hopped — More common in the Pacific Northwest, these ciders are infused with fresh or dry hops and add tart, citrus notes.
- Perry — A cider made from fermented pears, not apples. (Not to be confused with apple-based ciders flavored with pear juice.) Crisp, refreshing.
Pairing #1 — Lamb Sliders with Blue Cheese
Filled with blue cheese and caramelized onions, these tasty sliders are simple to prepare and make a festive addition to any party. I substituted ground sirloin without sacrificing flavor. For added depth, mix some chopped onions and blue cheese into the raw meat before dividing it into patties.
You can balance out the richness of the meat and cheese with Reverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot. This bright, dry cider is infused with Cascade hops and apricot juice. Or go bold with Atlas Cider’s Pom Cherry, a juicy, sweet-tart cider that contrasts beautifully with pungent blue cheese.
Pairing #2 — Pulled Pork Sliders with Coleslaw
These bite-sized versions of the classic pulled pork sandwich are made with braised pork shoulder and homemade coleslaw. I used the leftover braising liquid to create a tasty barbeque sauce.
I complimented this Southern classic with Tieton Cider Works Blossom Nectar Cider. Light and medium-bodied and a ripe apple flavor, this cider is reminiscent of sweet tea on a hot summer day.
Pairing #3 — Black Bean Sliders
This meatless slider appeals to vegetarians and carnivores alike. You can play around with the avocado topping or use a good-quality guacamole instead. Other tasty additions include tomatoes, Monterrey Jack cheese, and onions.
For a texture and flavor contrast that stands up to multiple spice levels, I paired the black bean slider with the extremely well-balanced and versatile Snowdrift Cider’s Cliffbreaks Blend. A lovely golden color, Cliffbreaks is full-bodied and filled with big apple flavors.
Pairing #4 — Curried Chicken Salad Sliders
Fresh ginger and curry powder add pizzazz to these cold chicken salad sliders. They’re also perfect for those hot summer days when you don’t want to cook since the chicken salad can be prepared a day or two ahead of time.
Light, crisp and filled with grainy pear notes, I found Portland Cider Company’s Pearfect Perry to be just terrific with these sweet and spicy sliders. Two other fabulous and refreshing pear substitutes are Finnriver’s Sparkling Pear Cider and Snowdrift Cider’s Perry.
Ready to start cider pairing? Then grab a slider, crack open your fermented beverage of choice, and dig in.
All photos are courtesy of the author.