De Grendel Three Spades Cider, so good with my Chicken cooked in the style of an Alsace housewife…

De Grendel Three Spades Cider

The Graaff family of De Grendel are closely connected to the apple industry with four generations having strong roots in apple production. It was thus a natural progression for the well-known De Grendel Estate to start producing its own cider. The De Grendel Three Spades Cider is a premium cider that is uniquely made from freshly pressed pure apple juice, rather than apple concentrate. It has been gently hand-crafted using apples from the Elgin terroir – an area that is well-known for its premium apples. The combination of five different apple varieties provides a delightful flavour – 30% Golden Delicious, 30% Granny Smith, 20% Pink Lady, 10% Braeburn and 10% Fuji.

De Grendel’s  Sir de Villiers Graaff & Charles Hopkins, inspecting apples

The creation of De Grendel Three Spades Cider was a brand new experience for De Grendel’s founding  winemaker, Charles Hopkins. He was pleasantly surprised that the treatment of both wine and cider is not worlds apart – although cider offers a much quicker process. “Making this cider has been a great learning curve and an interesting experience for me. I didn’t realise how similar the process would be to winemaking,” explains Charles. “I’ve discovered that the secret to a top-class cider is the composition of the apple juices.”

View from De Grendel at dawn

From a specially made brown mini champagne bottle, closed under crown cork.  The logo of the De Grendel Three Spades Cider is of three Spades,  the most distinctive element of the De Grendel Wines crest and it is repeated on this bottle. The bottle also symbolises a fun, mini celebration, as well as luxury. However, it is suitable for any time and with a wide range of foods. In the glass it is a delicate golden straw in colour with the tiniest of bubbles rising to the top. The aromas are obviously of apple, and the flavours are those of an Apple Champagne. Nice ending too, very refreshing. My feeling is that this is a elegant cider, one that should be taken seriously.

My Chicken cooked in the style of an Alsace housewife – photo credit Le Creuset

Well chilled, on its own, it works as a midmorning refresher or a sipper at sundown. It will go well with a number of dishes, belly of pork with crispy crackling comes to mind. My Chicken cooked in the style of an Alsace housewife is the perfect dish for the De Grendel Three Spades Cider.

Chicken cooked in the style of an Alsace housewife

Alsace has its answer to Coq au Vin Rouge – chicken cooked in white wine.  I have taken a little license here and created a dish that could have come from the oven of a bonne femme of Riquewihr.  You can use a whole chicken that you can joint; I just find it easier to use pieces as the bones add so much to the unctuousness of the sauce.

What you’ll need

8 chicken thighs, or legs – bone in skin on
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium onions – sliced
3 fat cloves garlic – finely chopped
200g smoked pork rashers [not bacon]
200g Portobello mushrooms [use small ones whole]
40ml brandy
250ml white wine or De Grendel Three Spades Cider
250ml chicken stock
2 tsp dried French tarragon
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
croutes of bread and chopped parsley to garnish.

What you’ll do

Preset the oven on 200C. Pat the chicken thighs in some seasoned flour and brown them lightly in olive oil in a heavy ovenproof casserole on all sides.  Remove and set aside.  Toss in the onion and garlic and the pork rashers and cook stirring all the while until the onions and the pork start to colour.  Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for a short while and then place the chicken thighs on top.

Heat the brandy gently and pour over the chicken and set it alight.  Pour over the wine and the stock; add the tarragon leaves and season well with the sea salt and freshly milled black pepper.

Bring to the boil and place in the oven for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature for a further 30 – 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender.  Remove the chicken pieces into a warm serving dish and reduce the sauce a bit.  Pour over the chicken pieces and garnish with the croutes and the parsley and serve with noodles and a crisp green mixed leaf salad.

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