A Brief History
On November 18, 2017, we celebrate the annual Apple Cider Day, a national day in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Why isn’t the juice of pressed apples just called “apple juice?” For that matter, what is “apple juice?” Read on and we will explain these fine points of culinary delight to you!
First of all, apple juice is junk! It is made from apples all right, pressed into juicy stuff which if left alone would be apple cider, but it is further processed to ruin any useful purpose as a drink for reasonable people. It is treated with enzymes and is clarified by centrifugal force, spinning it to remove solids, starch, and if filtered to a pale, almost colorless liquid resembling slightly undrinkable water. Topping off our list of why not to drink the stuff, the foreign made variety may well have other unsavory ingredients such as chemicals and preservatives, or even arsenic!!! In fact, 70% of the “apple juice” sold in the US comes from China, a country well known to adulterate foods and medicines with unauthorized and unlisted ingredients. If you insist on drinking this stuff or serving it to your children, read the label carefully to ensure you are ONLY using a 100% American made product. (Often an American brand, bottled in the USA will have imported ingredients as well, so READ CAREFULLY.)
On the other hand, real apple cider, especially the unpasteurized variety (usually sold right at the apple farm, while grocery stores almost exclusively sell a pasteurized product) is pressed from apples particularly appropriate for cider production, that is, apples with tannins that leave the mouth feeling a dry crispiness. Ahhhhh! Real apple cider is a brown color (make sure what you buy does not have artificial ingredients!) and is somewhat thicker than the watery apple juice products. Apples used for producing apple cider in the US can be almost any type or combination of types, while in the UK only certain apples grown specifically for cider production are used. In the US, it is a good idea to try cider from multiple sources to find the one you like best. It is not all the same!
So what is “hard cider?” Simply regular, unpasteurized apple cider without preservatives that through the normal aging process ferments, producing an alcoholic beverage. Before you even get to that point, you will find apple cider begins to develop a sharp tang to it and some fizziness as it gets older. How long this process takes depends on how fresh it was when you bought it, temperature it is kept at, and other factors. If you let apple cider that gets “hard” hang around for too long, it will turn into “cider vinegar,” a useful product itself.
Apple cider is refreshing and delicious consumed icy cold, is still palatable at room temperature, or could be heated up to create “hot cider.” When preparing hot cider, a cinnamon stick is often used as garnishment to impart a spicy flavor to the drink, or “mulling spices” are added to spice things up. Normal mulling spices include a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, but some varieties may add anise, peppercorns, cardamom, or even dried fruits. For visual adornment, add a slice of orange floating on top. Try a variety and pick the one(s) you like best.
Apple cider has about 117 calories per cup, almost all coming from carbohydrates, about half a normal sized candy bar. It also has potassium and about 1% of your daily fiber needs. Rounding out the nutritional picture, you can expect around 4% of your daily Vitamin C, 5% of your daily Iron, and 2% of your daily Calcium to come from a single cup of cider. The tasty drink is almost without Sodium, having a mere 7mg per cup.
Although the US is the second largest grower of apples (China is first), the only apple native to North America was the Crab Apple! All the other 2500 varieties (wow!) were either brought here or developed since Europeans came here. In the US, just under a fifth of apple production goes into cider, while in Britain almost half the apples grown are pressed for cider! The US exports a quarter of its apple crop, and DO NOT peel your apple before eating! The skin contains much of the vitamins and fiber.
As you may have already guessed, the author loves apple cider. Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a favorite fruit juice, or a favorite way of preparing apple cider? Please share the information in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Watson, Ben. Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own. Countryman Pr, 2000.