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All summer, we beat the heat by sipping the season’s iciest refreshers: chilled spritzes, cooler-stowed brews and, yes, the occasional frozen margarita (or paloma or rosé/frosé). As the relentless mugginess finally lifts, we’re still looking for a cool drink or two, but our tastes are turning toward the rounded, fruity flavors of autumn. At this time of year, hard ciders are my beverage of choice—and it doesn’t hurt that they pair so beautifully with the heartier dishes of fall.
In Normandy, the windswept coastal region of France west of Paris, the affinity between the area’s excellent hard ciders and its rustic, flavorful cuisine is more than just a happy accident: It’s a time-honored tradition. Their favorite autumnal food-drink combination matches the savory crepes known as galettes—often filled with rich, fatty ingredients such as melted cheese and nubbly lardons—with a glass of dry, sparkling cider. The nutty crepes cry out for the bracing acidity and pétillant bubbles that Normandy’s cider-makers specialize in.
Luckily, you don’t have to hop on a jet plane to savor this traditional pairing: with a little practice, galettes are simple to make at home (and, for the gluten-free set, the buckwheat flour they’re made with is a perfect choice). To make the most of this oh-so-autumnal coupling, we chatted with Emma Christensen, homebrew guru and the author of the recently published Modern Cider, a guide to making ciders, fruit wines, and shrubs at home. We set Emma up with four of our favorite "galette" recipes—one traditional Norman-style number, and three additional pastries that also cry out for a glass of booze (because...why not)—and she shared her picks for delicious, unique hard ciders that bring out the best in each one. Even if you can’t get your hands on these exact bottles, go ahead and try pairing any of these galettes with the cider of your choice—we bet their affinity for each other will be more than apparent.
Traditionally cooked on the stovetop in a crepe pan, French galettes can be a bit laborious as each crepe serves only one person. Here, we’ve kept the traditional, nutty flavor provided by buckwheat flour, but adapted it to a large, oven-baked tart that serves six. Packed with soft apples shot through with earthy sage and nestled into a bed of sharp cheddar cheese, this galette is already so full of flavor that Emma recommends a clean, easy-drinking cider that won’t distract from the tart. Unified Press from Vermont’s Citizen Cider is her pick: crisp and off-dry, it’s refreshing but not overly assertive.
This savory tart is just the kind of fare we crave during the fall: hearty and rustic, it delivers big, seasonal flavors with the inclusion of aromatic thyme and butternut squash, that autumnal superstar. A pillowy blanket of fresh ricotta absorbs all of the squash’s sweet juices, which are also contained by the buttery, flaky semolina crust. As Emma notes, it’s important to consider contrasts, not just complements, when choosing a beverage pairing; in this instance, she opts for Arlo from Vermont’s Shacksbury Cider. Assertive and vibrantly acidic, the lightly sparkling cider holds its own alongside the soft, rich galette.
This beautifully folded tart is the perfect coda to a fall dinner party, offering up all our favorite flavors of the season: pumpkin, apples and cranberries accented by plenty of warming spices. Because the galette is not overly sugary—it’s blissful for breakfast the next day, too—Emma recommends enjoying it alongside a sweet, juicy cider rounded out with plenty of fruit. Ginja Ninja from Oregon’s 2 Towns Ciderhouse is just the ticket: ripe Northwest apples provide a fruity backbone, while the zip of fresh ginger intermingles beautifully with the tart’s fragrant nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
This dessert galette is not your mama’s apple pie: made with an all-butter, puff pastry-like cloud of a crust and a healthy glug of soul-warming bourbon, it’s a sophisticated sweet that won’t last long once it emerges from the oven. Emma’s pairing pick is Graviva from Sonoma County’s famed Tilted Shed Ciderworks: unfiltered and unrefined, the dessert cider gets backsweetened prior to bottling with a touch of organic cane sugar that echoes the tart’s honeyed notes. In a nod to Normandy’s robust cider making tradition, Graviva’s apple blend includes the Nehou, a high-tannin, low-acid cider apple that’s a favorite in the French region.
What do you like to pair cider with? Let us know in the comments!