This is hard cider weather, my favorite time of year. Woodpecker Cider happens to be one of my favorite. Woodpecker was first produced over a century ago in historic Hereford by H.P. Bulmer.
We are actually friends with the Bulmer family in England. Years ago we went to a family wedding at their estate. It was an amazing event, the whole place was decorated with apples and flowers. It was 25˚F outside and all the ladies were wearing strapless gowns, typical England. They, of course, served cider.
The use of the English bittersweet apple provided Woodpecker with a distinctive taste and refreshing drinkability. It has a crisp semi-dry finish, amber hue with a lightly sparking appearance, sweet fruity aroma and a slight toffee-apple note.
Sausage & Cider Casserole
1 Tbs olive oil
8 extra lean pork sausages
1 lb salad potatoes
6 shallots, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, thickly sliced
3 Tbs flour
2 cups dry cider
1 cup hot chicken stock
1 Tbs fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbs fresh thyme, chopped,plus extra to serve
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 Braeburn apple, cored and diced
Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan or flameproof casserole dish and gently fry the sausages until browned all over. Remove from the pan and set aside, reserving the oil. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in simmering water until just tender. Drain well and crush with a fork. Set aside.
Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the pan, add the shallots and the carrots and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until golden. Reduce the heat, sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring all the time.
Pour the cider and stock into the pan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time, until the sauce has a smooth consistency. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the sausages and fresh herbs and season to taste.
Combine the potatoes with the apple, season and spoon over the sausage casserole. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling. To serve, simply scatter with a little fresh thyme.