Vail Daily food feature: Falling for hard cider

Katie Coakley
Special to the Weekly
West Vail Liquor Mart carries nine varieties of ciders from three Colorado brewers seen here, in addition to their wider selection of ciders from around the country. From Colorado they have Snow Capped Cider, Big B's and Wild Cider.
Anthony Thornton | |

Crispin Cider-brined Thanksgiving turkey


(Serves 6-8; Prep time 24 hours, cook time 3-6 hours)

Crispin Cider Brine

1 cup sea salt

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup apple juice

2 22-ounce bottles Crispin Honeycrisp cider

4 sprigs each of rosemary and thyme

1 1/2 gallons of water


In a large cooking pot warm both bottles of cider, add salt and brown sugar and stir until dissolved completely, about 10 minutes.

In a large container or sanitary culinary bucket place the apple juice, water and cider/salt/sugar solution. Stir to mix well, then add herbs.

Completely submerge turkey in brine solution and let rest in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Roasting the turkey:


Turkey from brining solution

2 large apples peeled

4 Tablespoons butter

4 cups brine solution

1 large onion, quartered

1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large celery stick, cut into 1-inch chunks

Thyme and Rosemary from brine


After removing turkey from brine and patting dry, rub 4 Tablespoons of butter over the entire turkey then turn breast side down.

Pour the 2 cups of brine, 2 cups of water, the herbs and all the vegetable inside the turkey. Don’t worry — much of the brine and water will wash out of the turkey.

Roast the turkey breast side down for 1 hour, remove from oven and baste with brine solution in bottom of pan.

Turn the turkey breast side up and lay the thinly sliced apples over the breast of the turkey until completely covered. Cover turkey with foil and cook one more hour then remove apples and cook last hour without apples to brown the skin.

Baste turkey every half hour using the stock from the roasting pan (add additional brine if becoming dry) until internal temp reads about 165 F when inserted into the meatiest part of the turkey. This takes approximately 3 hours depending on the size of your turkey.

Remove from oven and let stand for about 20 minutes before slicing

Note: You can use vegetables and apples from baking as an addition to you holiday stuffing.

Hard cider — the drink of choice when our forefathers were facing off with the Brits — is experiencing a rise in popularity in today’s market and, unlike powdered wigs, it’s a welcome return.

Hard cider is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States, though other countries including France and Spain have been making ciders for centuries, and ciders such as Magner’s and Strongbow have shared taps with Guinness and Bass for years in the U.K. Now, the range of ciders that are available both on draft and on store shelves has exploded. From smaller craft options like Tilted Shed Ciderworks and Crispin to offerings from big-name breweries like Cidre, from Stella Artois, cider options are ripe for the picking.

There are several reasons for the rise in hard cider’s popularity: As craft beer becomes more mainstream, cider is a new option to sample; ciders can be a lighter option than beer (though many carry the same ABV as craft beer); it’s also an option for those attempting a gluten-free diet.

Cider’s market share may be smaller — only about 1 percent of sales in the U.S. — but American retail sales of cider have nearly doubled in a year, according to a recent article by Investor’s Business Daily.

“I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in cider in the last year or year and a half,” said Chip Bartsch, beer buyer at West Vail Liquor Mart. “I think it’s an expansion of the craft beer industry. People are looking for new flavors of beer and have transferred some of that interest to cider.”

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As with craft beer, there are many different styles of cider, from bone dry to incredibly sweet and everything in between. As a result, there is a taste for just about anyone who is looking to break out from the beer barrel.

“The Europeans tend to go toward drier style,” Bartsch said. “I think Americans are more adventurous and will try wilder stuff, like pumpkin or pineapple. There are lots of different options out there.”

Wild Cider, based out of Firestone, has both a pineapple and a pumpkin cider. Other popular additions to ciders include cherries or dark berries. Angry Orchard, perhaps one of the most popular cider brands available, has a Cider House Collection that includes styles such as a farmhouse cider, an ice cider and cider aged in French oak barrels in addition to its mainstream offerings of apple.


When choosing a cider, take a good look at the label and examine its ingredients. Some ciders are made from concentrate and, just like the juice commercials tout, cider tastes better when it’s made from real apple juice — not concentrate.

As far as apples are concerned, not all apples are equal when it comes to cider. Ciders that have been made from cider apples will yield a more interesting flavor that can range from honeyed to spicy to earthy, with a range of finishes. Cider that has been made with table apples such as Gala or Red Delicious usually yields a sweeter, blander final product. This differentiation in apple styles will usually be noted on the label.

To sample the diversity, check out Blossomwood Cidery, located near Grand Mesa, which has one of the largest collections of English and French cider apple trees in the United States. Blossomwood is operating a classic cidery, using traditional techniques and equipment as well as heirloom variety fruits to make hard apple ciders, French-style ciders and perries (which are like ciders but use pears instead of apples). It’s just one of the new cideries that have cropped up in Colorado.


In Colorado, where craft beer roots are undeniable, hard cider is making strides in the local scene, with excellent examples being created from the Western Slope to the Front Range. At last count, there are 13 hard cider makers and cideries in Colorado.

“There are some very high-quality ciders being made right here on Colorado’s Western Slope,” Bartsch said. “The Western Slope is a prime growing habitat for many types of fruit, including apples. The high altitude, pure water, warm days and cool nights make for a fantastic fruit growing environment, and we are proud to carry ciders from two different producers from the Western Slope: Big B’s in Hotchkiss and Snow Capped Ciders from Cedaredge.”

Other Colorado options that are available for purchase in the Vail Valley include options from the Colorado Cider company in Denver and the aforementioned Wild Cider, based in Firestone.


But cider is not just for drinking.

Stella Artois, the Belgian-based company known for its beer, recently released Cidre, a Belgian-style cider crafted from hand-picked Washington apples. Daniel Joly, executive chef and owner of Mirabelle at the base of Beaver Creek, is a chef ambassador for the company.

“I personally love it — it is complex, refreshing and bubbly with a sophisticated apple taste finish,” Joly said. “Beer and cider have been brother and sister for a long time in Belgium beer history. I think the popularity is due to people wanting an alternative, and Cidre, because of its low content of alcohol, makes it a drink of choice. It also fills a gap for a gluten-free drink for those who are (gluten) intolerant.”

But Joly urges people to think beyond just sipping cider — it’s also great for cooking.

“From a chef’s point of voice, cider gives you so many options to play with,” Joly said. “It’s a little like cooking with wine: When you reduce it, you have a sweet apple fruit come across. It’s great to make a sauce, add it into a savory dish like crepes or even brine your turkey for a tender juicy Thanksgiving dinner.”

Whether you’re looking for a break from beer or simply want to try something new, cider offers the opportunity to taste something a little different. So the next time you’re in the liquor store or bellying up to the bar, seek out a cider; you may find a new favorite beverage to enjoy.

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