Why we live for the funk.
“The kids around the way used to think that I was buggin’
But they don’t understand how I feel about the funk
I walk with the funk, I talk with the funk
I eat with the funk, I sleep with the funk
I live for the funk, I’ll die for the funk
So now what do they say, when I’m walkin’ up the block?
Boom shaka laka there goes the Chief Rocka”
-Lords of the Underground
If you’ve come in to our tasting room (and if you haven’t, you really should!), then you’ve heard us describe our cider making method as “rustic” or “natural.” What does that mean? While there are no set definitions, we define the rustic or natural approach as producing cider without using chemicals and without the significant use of, or reliance upon, modern technology. Stated another way, we essentially go old school. But don’t confuse old school with the purist approach (i.e., only apple juice, no infusions, no hops, etc.) We’re old school, but not purists.
At this point, you should be asking yourself, “Why the hell would anyone go old school?” Good question.
There are lots of reasons not to do it. For instance, using barrels to ferment and age instead of slick, shiny stainless steel tanks dramatically increases the risk of oxidization—something frowned upon in the fermentation world. And not using preservatives increases the chance that lots of unwanted microbes and the like will infect the cider.
However, we don’t necessarily view the presence of other microbes as “unwanted” or “infections.” And allowing our cider and its friend, Yeast, to breathe a little seems like the right thing to do. To us, our cider is a living thing. Who wants to be suffocated? Also, filtering, preserving, and “chemicalizing” cider results in too much conformity. And in our opinion, conformity dulls imagination. Put another way, when there is more diversity of life at the party, things can get more interesting. We like interesting—even if it’s a little risky and outside the norm. In the end, there are more reasons to go old school than not. It’s a personal choice, and one that fits who we are and our sense of place here in Goochland, Virginia (more on terroir another time).
So, that’s why we follow a rustic/natural method. We use barrels, avoid the use of sulfites when at all possible, and don’t run our cider through a fancy filtration device. We walk with the funk. Talk with funk. Eat with funk. You get the idea.
The importance of the kitchen.
We live in a chaotic paced techno-modern time, where everything is literally at our fingertips—the miracle (curse?) of cell phones. Now, more than ever, the value in disconnecting from technology and plugging back in to the actual lives around us cannot be underestimated. For us, this natural, real life revolves around the kitchen. It becomes a place to break bread, catch-up on the day’s events, and simply communicate in person and not by text. We relish the opportunity to share a meal with family and friends. And no meal would be complete without some cider to accompany it! Here is a simple, tasty small bite to get the conversation going in your kitchen. Invite some family and friends over, unplug, unwind, break some bread (or a biscuit) and enjoy! Pairs well with the Honest Farmer and the Emperor.
Smoked Cheddar Biscuits with Bacon Jam
For the smoked cheddar biscuits:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 12 tbsp cold butter
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 cold large egg
- 1 cup smoked cheddar cheese (grated)
Preheat Oven to 425ºF.
Mix together in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle: flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter (a little at a time) in to the flour mixture and blend until butter is the size of small peas.
In another bowl, combine and beat lightly the buttermilk and egg and slowly add this wet mixture to the flour mixture. Mix cheese with a small handful of flour and fold into mixture while mixer is still on low. Mix until roughly combined. Take out and knead on a lightly floured surface about 6 times. Roll out to a rectangle and, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into desired shape/sizes. We have used a cookie cutter, and also just eyeballed it and cut into squares or triangles. If desired, mix one egg white with 1 tablespoon of water or milk and brush the tops with it. Sprinkle with salt. Put on parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are browned and cooked through.
For the bacon jam:
- 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into about ½-1 inch pieces
- 8 shallots (or 2 medium yellow onions), cut into smallish dice
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 3/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (or use less, depending on your taste)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tbsp chocolate balsamic (a regular, good balsamic will also work)
In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towel lined plate to drain.
Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the drippings from the skillet and reserve. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Season generously with black pepper. Add coffee, vinegar, sugar, syrup and balsamic and bring to boil. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom, for 2 minutes. Add bacon back in and stir.
Reduce the heat to bare simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid almost completely evaporates and turns syrupy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Let bacon jam cool slightly before transferring to a food processor and pulsing until coarsely chopped. Spoon over the biscuits, or store covered. You can make this a day ahead of time and refrigerate. If you do, make sure to warm it up in a pan before serving.
Putting it all together:
Take a biscuit. Spoon some warm jam over the biscuit. Take a bite. Smile. Sip some cider. Repeat.