It’s Fall and the holidays are in full swing, wrapping their magic around us, returning us to the familiar security of family traditions. For us, traditions are all about the kitchen, and that means a bottle of apple brandy is going to get bought. Probably more than one. It’s a bit of a seasonal thing that comes on us around the time the spiced apple cider starts appearing on the shelves of our local markets. We switch it up from year to year, trying different labels and vintages as we can afford, but we honor the tradition.
As the spiced cider heats on the stove we consider our choices; Calvados or Apple Jack? French or American? To be or not to be? …and then we buy both, because we hate to choose and we live to compare. Budget-wise, we weren’t going over $20 a bottle so we settled for Trader’s Joe’s Calvados offering and the Laird’s NV Apple Jack available from BevMo. Taste testing ensued.
Calvados, which is tied to the heart of the designated regions of Normandy, is generally considered the top of the heap through it’s connection to french brandy making and it’s long history, but America has also been developing a history of it’s own, applying it’s colonial brashness to the creation it’s own collection of uniquely American apple brandy. Laird’s Apple Jack was sought after by George Washington and enjoyed by Lincoln. Established in 1780 and doing trade through 9 generations of the Laird family, it remains the American standard to this day, although there are a growing number younger producers that are on the market these days.
We found the Laird’s was smoother, showing up it’s “Non Vintage” label and made the best choice for plain sipping and some of the more elegant cocktails while the Trader Joe’s Calvados gave us a much stronger essence of apples and became the choice for hot cider, apple pies and other food that we added it to. We felt it would hold it’s own better there. We didn’t worry about the lack of cash when it came to being able to afford some of the more superior examples that make up the top end of this particular bracket. There are advantages to going with a younger, more fiery product. You see, aging ads complexity and richness, but it also tones down the apple notes, and we’ve decided to light the Christmas spirit up a bit this year by going big on the apple notes in our hot apple cider!
These heady gifts from the orchard will find their way into that pot of Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider we keep warming on the stove when our families get together. It will be sprinkled over cubes of challah or toasted day old french bread on it’s way to becoming a rich bread pudding and it will have apples tossed in it when we make our apple pies. We’ll deglaze pans with it to make the gravy that dresses our pork loin roasts and it will be the key ingredient in a late autumn sangria or an after dinner chai tea. And for our cheese boards we will stir it into warmed preserves before they graced a rich triple cream brie or tangy goat cheese…just because we can and it’s Christmas, you know?
Earlier this week Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks fame posted our next drink on her Instagram feed. Perhaps you’s like to pick up a bottle and try it with us!
half a champagne glass of Asti Spumanti,
a shot of golden rum (we used the Laird’s Apple Jack)
fill it up w/cranberry juice
Drink and Be Merry
(Also, feel free to enjoy my super-creative, artistic Hipstamatic rendition of the drink in the above posted picture. Santa’s Slays fuel creativity! Truth!)