Apple cider

Apple cider

''For the alcoholic beverage known in the U.S. as hard apple cider, see cider.

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.

Authentic cider is a seasonal beverage of limited shelf-life enjoyed in the autumn. Traditionally served on the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays, it is sometimes heated and mulled.

Nomenclature

While the term "cider" represents a fermented beverage in much of the world, in the United States and much of Canada cider is used for an unfermented and often unpasteurized form of traditionally produced apple juice. In such areas the descriptive "hard" is added to denote the fermented alcoholic product, known as hard cider. In the United States, the distinction between plain apple juice and cider is not legally well established.

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."

Unpasteurized Cider

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.

Commercial Production

Modern methods allow a formerly hand-made beverage to be commercially produced. According to the state of Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources it takes "about one third of a bushel to make a gallon of cider. To make cider, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the juice flows into refrigerated tanks. This juice is bottled as apple cider."

Pasteurization

Due to H7 outbreaks from unpasteurized apple cider and other outbreaks from contaminated juices, the U.S. FDA proposed new regulations in 1998.

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.

Variations

Hot apple cider or mulled cider (similar to "Wassail") is a popular fall (autumn) and winter beverage, consisting of apple cider, heated to a temperature just below boiling, with cinnamon, orange peel, nutmeg, cloves, or other spices added.

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.

Cider doughnuts are often sold at cider mills and contain cider in the batter. Visiting apple orchards in the fall for cider, doughnuts, and you-pick apples is a large segment in U.S. agritourism.

References

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