Apple cider is the name used especially in the United States and parts of Canada for a typically unfiltered, non-alcoholic beverage produced from apples. It is characteristically tart, both cloudier and more tangy than conventional filtered apple juice.
However, some individual states do clarify. For example, according to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural resouces "Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment...Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice."
Apple cider is typically made from blends of several different apples to give a balanced taste. There is some competitiveness among local cider mills in apple country for the highest quality blends.
Traditionally made from late-harvest and windfall apples, authentic cider has a more tart, tangy taste than apple juice. It is characteristically unfiltered, suspended fruit solids giving it a rather cloudy appearance.
Today, unpasteurized cider is generally sold only on-site at small orchards. Cider afficiandos seek it out for its authentic, unadulterated flavor, others for its unprocessed quality. Since the natural yeasts that cause fermentation have not been killed by pasteurization, it will "age" with time. Within a week or two it will begin to become slightly carbonated and eventually become so-called "hard cider" as the aging process turns sugar into alcohol.
The bulk of cider production and sale fell under the umbrella of proposed 1998 U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations applying to all fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
In 2001 the regulations were finalized, the FDA issuing a rule requiring that virtually all juice producers follow HACCP controls, using either heat pasteurization, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) or other proven methods. As a result, all apple cider sold in the United States, other than sales directly to consumers by producers (such as juice bars and roadside farmstands), must be produced using HACCP principles to achieve a 100,000 fold reduction in pathogens. While the use of UVGI treatment or other technologies meet legal requirements, heat pasteurization is the most commonly used method. Once treated, cider may be stored for a month or more without changing further in character.
Sparkling cider is a carbonated nonalcoholic beverage made from filtered apple cider. It is sometimes served at celebrations as a non-alcoholic alternative to champagne.