Dad’s Jerusalem Artichoke Relish was a team effort—we dug the knobby tubers in late fall and scrubbed off the sticky red clay. Then the whole family set in chopping. We packed pint jars full of onions, green and red peppers, a few jalapenos and crisp sweet sunchokes. Dad topped each jar with his special vinegar blend and a fresh bay leaf. Then we steamed up our west Georgia kitchen with water baths full of canning jars—all this for a row of jewel like jars, each full of southern fall flavor. I’ve made Dad’s artichoke relish since, but my solo version never matches the communal project of my childhood.
Collaboration of all sorts fuels my creativity. One of the best perks of cidermaking is the many opportunities to work with and be inspired by scores of talented people. So before we all get too serious about crossing names off our holiday lists, indulge me as I digress from this season of buying and selling by shining a light on a few collaborations that light my fire.
The many talented chefs who create dishes showcasing the subtleties of craft cider are top on my list—Collin Donnelly at the Red Hen in Lexington, VA, has a mean butcher knife and amazing charcuterie to match. His Cider Dinner Menu was a perfect marriage of cider, cured meat and pork in every course (dessert included). At JuJuBe restaurant in Chapel Hill, Charlie Deal takes another tack with his “almost Asian” approach to pairing heat and fruit. A room full of adventuresome eaters was awed by his eight course meal, paired with our four ciders. And Jay Pierce, at the Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen helm, always inspires. His mid course Margarita shook up the Lucky 32 Cider Dinner and sent everyone home with a smile.
John Shields and his over-the-top team at Town House in Chilhowie, VA, never fails to rock my world. Sommelier Charlie Berg’s favorite cider pairing is Foggy Ridge Sweet Stayman with Chilled Vegetable Minestrone—hardly your grandma’s soup. I can’t wait to try our newest cider, Foggy Ridge Handmade, with Wellfleet Oysters, ground cherries, black butter and butter whey. See the Town House website for photos taht are sure to make you dream…and drool.
I prefer “Handmade Libations” to the term “Mixology”—it just sounds more earthy. But regardless of nomenclature, the bar mavens out there who create glasses of deliciousness constantly amaze. Helen at Single Brothers Bar in Winston Salem whipped up a Ginger Fog with fresh Newtown Pippin juice from our last pressing, ginger liqueur and a slash of Foggy Ridge Serious Cider. Bistro Bethem in Fredericksburg served a Dugspur Fizz this fall with Foggy Ridge Handmade and stewed cranberries. And nearby Local Roots in Roanoke offers a Foggy Side Car on their winter menu.
Some collaborators inspire just by doing what they do—I always leave my friends at Full Steam Brewery in Durham with my head turned around and spinning with new ideas. Their Beer Biscuits are savory cookies that pair well with brews like Belgian Ale with Paw Paws and a rich dark beer aged in bourbon barrels that felt like velvet. Stay tuned for the magic Brewmaster Chris will work with Foggy Ridge apple pommace from our last pressing of Newtown Pippin apples. We visited Ashley Christiansen’s new spots in Raleigh this month, Beasely’s Chicken + Honey and Chuck’s, and left with smiles and wishes that these two warm and inventive restaurants were closer to Foggy Ridge—I’d be at both weekly for the best burgers and chicken I’ve had in years. Jason Alley blew me away at his new Richmond spot, Pasture, with tiny plates of gorgeous and delicious food. Lamb from Border Springs Farm was voted “best dish” at our table. Though I frequently cook Craig Rogers’ lamb at home, when I see “Border Springs” on a menu I can’t resist. Craig is a thoughtful writer, skilled shepherd and generous soul and I’m happy he and Joan live close to Foggy Ridge.
Virginia wine—and cider—makers collaborate too. Sarah Gorman from Cardinal Point Winery will join Foggy Ridge at the Charleston Food & Wine Show in March 2012, representing Virginia at a hot after-party at Husk restaurant, named 2011 Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit. And our local wine trail, with new members Attimo Winery and Stanburn Winery plans two joint events for 2012. Many wine trails just say “hey, we make wine near each other” but our Mountain Road Wine Experience actually collaborates on tasting tours and more.
There is one orchard job I can never do alone—in late August we shake the golf ball size Virginia Crabapples onto blue tarps laid on the orchard floor. This small apple is a bear to pick, and since we press it promptly, we always shake the ripe fruit from the tree, an English cider apple tradition. When the plastic tarp is covered with fruit, four of us grab a corner and heave the striped red and yellow apples into a bin. I always call out, “all together now”…and always mean every word.