Cider-Cheddar Fondue

In two weeks, one of my favorite New England festivals is taking place in Western Massachusetts. Cider Days is a celebration of all things apple, with orchard tours, apple tastings, cidermaking, a grand “cider salon” with samples from around the world (that’s hard cider, not juice), workshops, kids’ activities, and more. Events take place all over Franklin County. This is such a wonderful recognition of the important place apples and cider have in our culinary history, and it’s just a very tasty and beautiful way to spend a day.

I’ll be doing a “Cooking with Cider” demonstration on Saturday, the 5th, at 11 a.m. at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. I plan to do one savory dish (maybe the cider-braised beef brisket) and one sweet one (apple dumplings cider-rum sauce). There will be samples, so be sure to come!

Meanwhile, in honor of the great hard cider producers in our region, here’s a recipe for cheddar-cider fondue that I came up with last week, and which I have now added to my “I wish I’d put this inthe book file. It’s a reinterpretation of the classic fondue recipe found in The Joy of Cooking, only made with cheddar, hard cider, and apple brandy instead of the traditional French Gruyère, white wine, and kirsch. Sadly, I failed take a photo, but I can assure you it looks like just about every other cheese fondue you’ve seen. Enjoy!

New England Cheddar-Cider Fondue

Total time: 20 minutes; hands-on time: 20 minutes

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

1 1/4 cups  medium-dry hard cider, (I recommend local ciders from Farnum Hill in NH, West Country Winery in NH or Furnace Brook Winery in MA

1 pound Cheddar cheese, grated (you can also use Gruyère or Gouda)

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons apple brandy or applejack

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Assorted accompaniments, such as crusty French bread; boiled fingerling potatoes; apple or pear slices; steamed cauliflower, broccoli, or green beans; roasted Brussels sprouts; or sausage slices

Rub the inside of a 3- to 4-quart pot with the garlic clove, then discard. Add the cider and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cheese and nutmeg and stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese is melted. Don’t worry if it doesn’t blend with the cider…that will happen later.

In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch with the brandy. Add to the cheese mixture and stir until smooth, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with accompaniments of your choice. Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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