Cider Pairing: Heritage Cider & Lamb Chops

Lamb chops feel special. Rich and gamey, (pricey), and at a bite or two each, perhaps a bit twee. Not an every day meal, for sure, at least here in the U.S. (where lamb barely registers as a protein of choice). When pairing with cider, something sweet could work...a Moroccan lamb tagine with dried apricots is certainly brilliant, so that sort of interplay wouldn't be beyond the pale.

But we like to go with a cider with some real character. A contemplative pour. A cider with structure, like a red wine. You know, what your sommelier would call for when you order lamb chops in a posh restaurant. And that's what you get from many heritage ciders, which are made with apples grown for their ability to bring more to the game than just sugar. Bright acidity and tight tannins...things that can stand up to fat.

For these broiled chops (meant to be grilled, but rain prohibited), we chose a limited edition cider from Kite & String, their King of Hector made from 100% wild apples. Fragrant (green apples, some spice), bracing acid, dry and bubbly and lingering. There's an oaky note, which is odd because as far as we can tell this never sat in a barrel. Fermentation in the bottle does some really cool things.

A simple orzo salad with farmers' market and our garden-grown produce adds freshness. The sweet, raw garden peas bring a pop of color. Underneath, a quick saute of zucchini noodles with a hit of red pepper flakes. Layers of flavor.

King of Hector was a cider club exclusive, so it's unlikely you'll find this anywhere. Don't fret. Any heritage cider with the above noted character--acid, tannin, bubbles--will pair well with lamb chops.

This weekend, be a little fancy. Grill some lamb, uncage and uncork a great bottle of cider, and drink to special moments around your table.