Backyard entertaining and small bite spreads go hand-in-hand. When one hand is reaching for a thoughtfully curated cheese board and the other is nursing a glass of your favorite refreshing cider, you’ve reached nirvana. Fortunately, it’s easy to achieve your summertime snacking dreams with just a handful of ingredients — and a bottle of that aforementioned cider, of course.
Cheese selection: Offer three or more cheese options that strike a balance of soft, hard, rich and mild. A variety of cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese is best. We used Pacific Northwestern picks including the Brie-reminiscent Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack, buttery Cascadia Creamery Sleeping Beauty and Salt Spring Island Cheese Co. Basil Chèvre for a fresh pop of herb flavor and color.
Pairings: Build your cheese board as minimalistic or extravagant as you please. For this rendition, baguette slices were ideal vessels for spreading with cheese and smearing with jam. Sprinkle a few handfuls of your favorite nut variety (we used Marcona almonds) or another accompaniment to add some crunchy texture.
Finally, serve with cider-infused apricot jam for just the right sweet-to-tangy ratio — thanks to a hint of acid from tart crab apple cider from Dragon’s Head Cider on Washington’s Vashon Island and some lemon for good measure.
Cider-Infused Apricot Jam
Yields: 3 cups
1 ½ pounds apricots
¼ cup Dragon’s Head Columbia Crabapple
1 cup sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
Wash the apricots, cut into halves, remove kernels and dice into roughly half-inch cubes, amounting to about 4 cups. Add to a saucepan with the cider, sugar and lemon juice and begin to cook slowly over medium heat. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring regularly, then turn to medium-low heat. Continue cooking and stirring for 15-20 minutes or until apricots have mostly broken down and jam is thickened. Use the cold plate method (or other preferred jellying point test method) to check doneness.