Winter always has us looking for something deeper, darker, fuller. Thumbing through the recently released cookbook Dinner At The Long Table, we found a recipe for honey poached chestnuts to serve along-side blue cheese. I can't recall a time we put Chestnuts on the grocery list, so we were excited to search them out and roast them up. Once peeled, we pouched the chestnuts for a hour or so in honey from Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring, NY. We served the chestnuts with Jasper Hill's fantastic Bailey Hazen Blue and glasses of aged ice cider from our cellar. Eden's Brandy Barrel Heirloom Blend, full bodied with intense aromas of caramel, overripe apples and hints of oak and honey, was the perfect pairing. Honestly, it was hard to tell where one flavor ended and another began - sweet, salty, nutty, woody, funky... All blending together and intensifying by way of the the bright and balanced acidity of the ice cider.
In the process, we learned that the American Chestnut, once abundant up and down the east coast and as far west as The Mississippi, is all but extinct due to a blight that decimated the tree in the first half of the 20th century. Digging further we found that a strong effort is underway by The American Chestnut Foundation to breed blight resistant chestnuts and restore the tree to eastern forests. We had no idea - and as we enjoyed the last sips and bites, our conversation turned to the fate of American Cider Apples and all the work being done by cider makers, orchardists and universities to bring them back to their rightful place in our orchards and our culture.