There’s no denying it has been a strange fall so far. Warmer weather hit right as our favorite holiday cakes and sweets arrived from Italy. Still, sure as the Earth turns, cold weather will get here and when it comes, so will plenty of ice and snow.
But something good, nay brilliant, comes from all that snow. Eden Ice Cider Company in Vermont takes advantage of seasonal apple harvests and icy cool weather to create a delicious alcoholic ice cider that is tart, sweet, and full-bodied.
Ice Cider hails from Quebec originally, and is a sort of hybrid ice wine and hard cider. The apples freeze for months in the winter, yielding a sweet concentrated juice that is then pressed and fermented for a few more months to add an alcoholic zing. The result is a slightly sweet, slightly tart, and overall totally smooth apple beverage that can stand on its own for dessert or be paired with any number of delicious cheeses.
Eleanor and Albert Leger became the first U.S. Ice Cider producers after they purchased an abandoned dairy farm in West Charleston, Vermont. At the end of each fall, they collect the apples from their 1,000 plus apple trees and prepare them to freeze in the natural Vermont ice. After the frozen season, the apple juice is pressed and fermented in steel vats along the wall of their cellar.
Two years ago Eleanor and Albert purchased the building that became the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, a cooperative space in Northern Vermont where farmers and delicious food producers share retail space. The Eden Ice Cider cellar is just downstairs.
Over the summer on a two-day getaway with some girlfriends, I stumbled upon the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center and met Albert, who was happy to talk shop over a tasting flight. The tasting bar features multiple ice ciders, aperitifs, spirits, and sparkling dry or off-dry cider, a staple in our South End store.
As an added bonus, Albert walked us around the downstairs cellar where he tastes the cider throughout its fermentation process to determine exactly when to stop it from further fermenting. The ciders age in huge vats along the walls. After the tour, Albert pulled a sample of Northern Spy Ice Cider, made exclusively from late season, heirloom Northern Spy apples from one of the barrels where it ages. Crazy delicious, this blend is only available in limited quantities. Luckily, Ross got us a case at the South End!
After last winter’s crazy snowstorms, you can expect to find plenty of delicious Eden Ice Cider products in store as we veer into the colder season. We’ll have Heirloom Ice Cider, Sparkling Off-dry Cider, and Brandy-aged Heirloom Ice Cider, a favorite of Michelle Obama according to Albert. Talk to any cheesemonger to find the perfect pairing!
Beth Wittenstein is a cheesemonger at Formaggio South End and a Masters of Gastronomy student at BU..