Take your holiday offerings from boring to wow with one secret ingredient: local artisanal hard cider | Arts and Culture

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I am once again promoting, to anyone who will listen, the idea of using hard cider instead of stock for making gravy. I have been doing this for years, and my family loves it so much I always have to make a lot of it.

Once, some time ago, I was having trouble finding hard cider and had to resort to a national brand. It was definitely not as good. Imagine how delighted I was to meet Matt Brogan, of Berkshire Cider Project, at the Massachusetts Cheese Festival, held at High Lawn Farm this fall. We chatted about using hard cider in cooking. A few weeks later I went to North Adams to visit their cidery and tasting room at Greylock Works and had a long conversation with Matt’s wife and partner in the business, Kat Hand, about their cider story.

Sip artisanal dry, sparkling ciders in Berkshire Cider Project's tasting room

For so many of us, life unfolds differently than we anticipated, and this likewise has been true for Kat and Matt. It started with a cider-making kit as a gift to Matt. Their interest in hard cider grew and soon they were taking the leap to making hard cider professionally — what started as a hobby had become their work and their passion. At the Greylock Works tasting room, you can stop in for tastings or a glass of hard cider, local cheese plates and bottles to go. You can also find their ciders at many stores and restaurants across the Berkshires.

Our region is so lucky to have producers like Kat and Matt. Not only is it wonderful to have locally-made, small-batch, artisanal cider, but they also partner with many orchards and others in the area, supporting growers in the region. We all know the late frost in May was devastating to many apple orchards in the region, but it’s fine to make cider with imperfect, frost-damaged apples.

Every year the Berkshire Cider Project makes a special community cider with whatever apples anyone brings to them, and so every year, the “cidrage” of that offering is entirely different. In addition, many of our local historic sites have apple trees and they have partnered with places such as Hancock Shaker Village and Arrowhead to make some special, very small-batch hard ciders.

Executive Spotlight: Katherine 'Kat' Hand/Berkshire Cider Project

I have written here before about making gravy, and I offer that again here, along with instructions in case you don’t have pan drippings or want to make vegan gravy. Feel free to double or triple the recipe and keep some in the freezer for the next time you want a little gravy without the effort of making it from scratch. I’ve also made wonderful poutine with duck fat, oven fries, cider gravy and cheese curds.

Another recipe I’ve enjoyed is sausage and cabbage braised in hard cider. This recipe has the flexibility to work well with sausage made from any number of meats, and even with vegan sausage. I most recently made it with an apple and sage vegan sausage which would be a great Thanksgiving main for your vegan and vegetarian guests.

My third recipe suggestion here is a potato gratin with a cider-based cheddar sauce instead of cream. This sauce is quite versatile and can also be used to make Welsh rarebit (a dish in which the cheese sauce is traditionally made with beer) or presented in a fondue pot with various breads, and cooked sausages and vegetables for dipping.

Whatever recipe you decide to try, be sure to have some hard cider to enjoy with your meal.

Turkey with hard cider gravy, chutney and stuffing

With Thanksgiving in mind, if you want Elizabeth Baer’s recipes for stuffing and for cranberry chutney, head over to culinursa.com.


(Makes about 1 1/2 cups of gravy, can be doubled or tripled


Pan drippings from roast turkey, chicken, pork or 2 tablespoons butter or canola oil

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups hard cider


Place the roasting pan on a large burner, taking care to remember it may be hot if it has come right out of the oven. If you have no drippings or want a vegetarian or vegan gravy, melt the butter or heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan.

Add the flour and whisk to combine with the drippings or butter or olive oil. If desired, keep whisking until the roux becomes light brown.

Pour the cider into the fat and flour mixture and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk and cook until the gravy thickens.

Pour through a strainer, if desired, to remove any lumps or bits that were stuck to the pan.


Sausage and cabbage braised in hard cider

This recipe for sausage and cabbage braised in hard cider has the flexibility to work well with sausage made from any number of meats, and even with vegan sausage.

Serves 2


4 sausages, meat or vegan, preferably a flavor choice that will work with cabbage and cider

2 tablespoons butter or canola oil, plus more if needed

1 medium onion, sliced into half-moons

1 1/2-2 pounds cabbage (green, red, or Savoy), core discarded, leaves shredded

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

A few grinds of pepper

Pinch ground nutmeg

2-3 whole allspice berries (optional)

3/4 cup hard cider


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Melt butter or heat olive oil in an ovenproof sauté pan with an ap lid, or a Dutch oven would work, too. If using vegan sausages, check the package label for any instructions. Brown the sausages on all sides and remove to a plate.

Add more butter or oil if needed and add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté until soft and translucent and beginning to brown. Add the cabbage and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. If you need, add the cabbage in batches, adding more as the shreds wilt and soften.

Once the cabbage has fully cooked down, add the nutmeg, allspice berries and the cider. Scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan.

Return the sausages to the pan, cover, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes to make sure the liquid has not reduced too quickly. (If so, add more cider or some water.)

Serve with something to absorb the sauce, such as mashed potatoes.


Hard cider potatoes gratin

Potato gratin with a cider-based cheddar sauce instead of a cream sauce. 

Serves 4


2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1½ cups hard cider

4 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Pinch white pepper or a few grinds of fresh pepper

Pinch ground nutmeg

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices


Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a gratin dish with cooking spray for easier cleanup.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Pour in the cider and continue to whisk until the roux and the cider are fully incorporated.

Add the shredded cheese and whisk until melted. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Arrange one layer of overlapping potato slices on the bottom of the gratin dish. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and pour over about ⅓ of the cider-cheese sauce. Repeat to make three layers of potatoes.

Bake for 1 hour and allow to cool 15 minutes before serving.

Leave a Comment