Spain is known and famous for it’s red wines. Region of Asturias is renown for its cider and cider pouring. But Asturias is also land of many other landmarks and heritages.
Apart from cider, Asturias is a region well-known for its green spaces. Spectacular natural ‘paradises’ and scenery with legendary sites such as Covadonga Lakes, a true sight to behold. Not only for its mountain views, but also beaches, perfect for you surfers out there.
There are numerous monuments that have been declared as World Heritage sites by UNESCO, such as stunning churches of Santa María de Naranco, San Miguel de Lillo and San Julián de Prados. In addition, Asturias is home to various archaelogical sites and museums that feature artworks that date back to 25,000 year B.C. Asturias boasts of a combination of culture, nature and gastronomy, with dishes that will make your mouth water.
The world famous ‘Cabrales’ blue cheese is from Asturias, the perfect blend of unpasteurized cow’s milk with goat’s and sheep’s milk – giving a true blend of flavors and that spicy kick. But back to the drinking… Apples have been cultivated in this northwest Spanish region since B.C. By mid-18th Century there was 250 apple pressers producing 1.2 million gallons (4.5 million liters) of cider/juice a year. Once known to greeks as “zythos”, Asturian cider is now know for what we know it, “sidra” (cider in Spanish).
You may not believe this, but there is around 30 different types of apple varieties in the Spanish market gardens and plantations. That’s a lot of apples. Some are labelled as only eating apples for it takes specific and suitable applied for sidra. Asturian cider is mainly formed of small sour varieties that give it that freshness with added sweet and bitter apples to help produce slight (different) flavors.
How ‘Sidra’ is made
— Every farming family in Asturias has a few apple trees on its land. The apples are harvested by hand in the fall and made into sidra.
— Different varieties of apples are packed in nylon sacks and transported to the press. That is where the fruit is processed as quickly as possible.
— Apple varieties are mixed according to the particular taste required. Then they are roughly washed and chopped up small.
— Still today many farmers still press their apples in old wooden presses. Apples, previously softened, are now shoveled into the press.
— The ‘must’ created from the shoveled apples is then fermented in chestnut barrels.
— To eliminate cloudiness from the fresh cider, it is poured from the barrel through a fine filter. For the first tasting of the sidra, family, friends and neighbors gather together for these ‘espichas’ (tastings), as they have named them. They drink straight from the barrel and accompany the sidra with spicy Cabrales cheese, bread and/or assortment of Spanish ham and sausages.
The art of pouring
Decated into green glass (unlabelled) bottles in the months of February and March, Asturians consume and serve their regional drink in rustic glasses with a common ritual of pouring the sidra (at a height) to ‘improve’ flavor. This act is done by grabbing the bottle with one hand and elevating it above your head at a slight angle, and let the ‘sidra’ cascade from the green bottle into the glass you hold on your other side, at lower than hip-height. Only pour a little bit at a time and drink immediately, for the foam and potential flavor blossom as they hit the glass.
Personally having tried this ritual, we suggest you watch first and then attempt, for it is not easy — don’t get too carried away, you may end up with your cider on the ground and none in your glass to drink! Below, in the middle, is our @M Team member Erik, pouring cider from a barrel, another technique when bottles aren’t around.
Cooking with cider is also typically Asturian and is a custom that has spread throughout Spain. Have a look at a traditional ‘Chorizo a la sidra’ recipe and maybe give it a try. Would you like to visit Asturias? Click here to browse for accommodation and car hire.