Basque Gastronomy - The origin of the traditional Cider House menu
The Basque Country is known worldwide for the great gastronomic quality of each and every one of its territories.
Thousands of travelers visit us every year to enjoy our delicious cuisine. From the famous pintxo bars to the most exquisite Michelin Star restaurants. But many of the visitors leave our region without having enjoyed the most authentic of food and cider experiences: the cider houses.
Basque cider houses are not just a cellar where natural cider is made, but rather a tasting of their cider is combined with a high-quality menu made with local products. The families that own the cider houses are in charge of making our precious liquid gold but also of preparing dishes in their kitchens with high-quality raw materials.
Do you know the traditional cider house menu?
The most traditional menu is the one that consists of:
1. Homemade appetizer: it is usually a pintxo of chorizo or txistorra boiled in cider.
2. Cod omelette: a delicious and juicy cod omelette, made with high quality cod and eggs. Sometimes vegetables are also added to the omelette: caramelized onion or green pepper.
3. Fried cod with peppers: fried cod accompanied by green peppers and caramelized onion.
4. Grilled T-bone steak: this dish is one of the most desired in cider houses. You will eat a large beef steak cooked on the grill, usually over charcoal. Although here we eat it blue rare, ask for it as you prefer!
5. Idiazabal cheese, quince and walnuts: finally, to round off the meal, we will be served a basket of walnuts, quince and Idiazabal Designation of Origin cheese, a local cheese made from Latxa sheep's milk.
6. Basque natural cider tasting directly from the barrel or in bottle.
Despite the fact that the aforementioned menu is the most typical and the one that we will find in all Basque cider cellars, many of them also offer a varied menu with different options: grilled fish of the day, spider crab, chili peppers, tomato salad and tuna salad, grilled rib, monkfish, scrambled mushrooms... They even offer vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and children's menus. Cider houses are for everyone!
But, what is the origin of this deep-rooted custom of going to cider houses to enjoy the traditional menu and cider?
It all goes back to the 1960s, when the owners of bars, restaurants and gastronomic societies began to go to cider cellars to taste ciders from different barrels and choose their favourite, to later buy it. Thus begins what in the Basque Country we call the txotx ritual.
The owners of the cider houses opened small holes in the barrels, so that when these customers came to them, they could taste the cider directly through these small holes in the barrels, which were later covered with a toothpick (txotx in Basque).
In the beginning, customers went to the cider houses, tasted the cider from different barrels, chose their favorite and bought the cider from that kupela in large quantities for the whole year. Later, because cider is an alcoholic beverage, and they had to taste from a few barrels, customers began to bring their own food: cod or anchovy casseroles, chestnuts, cheese, walnuts and different products to eat while tasting the cider.
Thus, cider producers saw the need their customers had and made the leap to catering. The cider houses began to offer different local dishes to the people who came to taste and buy their cider, thus creating the model of cider houses that we know today in the Basque Country, where one can go to try Basque cider, but also to taste the great local gastronomy.
What are you waiting for?
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