Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Cider House Rules

No, this has nothing to do with the one movie with the terrible actor. This is about one of the Basque Country's must cherished traditions and it comes to us via EiTB:

Cider and its rituals

Nora García

Cider is the most popular drink in Gipuzkoa. January marks the inauguration of the cider season with the opening of the cider houses.

Cider is the most popular drink in Gipuzkoa. This apple beverage may look innocent enough but its alcohol content has been known to sneak up you. It is preferably consumed within a year from its production.

The Tolosa region and particularly the town of Astigarraga and vicinity (near Donostia-San Sebastian) are a bastion of the longstanding Gipuzkoan tradition of cider making.

The process begins with a discriminating selection of apples, which are then put into a tolare (cider press). After they are crushed and pressed, the juice is poured into kupelas (wooden barrels). The juice is then fermented for about three months, when it is ready for drinking.

To enjoy cider at its best, it should be served between 13 and 15ºC. It is bottled in dark green bottles to keep the light from getting through and spoiling the fragile liquid. To serve, it is poured into a glass from a distance of 30 o 40 centimeters so that bubbles are formed as it splashes against the side of the glass, bringing out its full flavor. It is said that cider should be drunk quickly, and never left to sit in the glass too long.

The rituals of cider

January marks the inauguration of the cider season. The cider houses open their doors, beginning with the ritual probaketa, or taste test to see whether the cider is ready. A small stick called a txiri is used to poke a tiny hole in the barrel, and out comes the first trickle of cider.

Cider is typically accompanied by a traditional meal comprising a cod omelet, a thick charcoal broiled T-bone steak or some sort of fish prepared in sauce. Cheese and walnuts are the perfect way to finish off an evening at the cider house.

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