I've been drinking lots of apple cider lately, now that it's in season and readily available in my nearby grocery store. I. Love. Apple. Cider. It's sweet, but not entirely so; there's more flavor to it than that. It has almost a cinamonny flavor, or anyway something darker, almost tangy, but if it's fresh, it's not tangy yet, it's still crisp. It tastes and smells like fall -- cool and orangey brown, a little bit melancholy and yet still delightful.
What's strange about my penchant for apple cider, I think, is that I really do not like apple juice. To me, apple juice is too sweet. Too simple. Like sugar water. A drink for a child. Watered down pap.
What accounts for the difference?
- First thing to note, in countries outside the United States, "apple cider" refers to apple juice that has been allowed to ferment and become an alcoholic beverage. We in the US call this "hard cider."
Hard or scrumpy cider
(Photo from Snail's Tales, cider from J.K.'s Scrumpy)
- But I'm not talking about hard cider, I'm talking about non-alcoholic apple cider.
- I should also note that in countries outside the US, people do not distinguish between our apple cider and our apple juice. To them, it's all apple juice.
- And some producers in the US even say that apple cider and apple juice are the same thing. I protest; they are NOT the same.
- It turns out, there are no specific standards or hard & fast definitions to distinguish the two. But there are some characteristics of each that are usually true.
Here's your basic apple juice. Note how pale the juice is compared to the cider pictured below. You can't see this, but the label reads "from concentrate."
(From a photo array created by Thomas G. Smith)
- pasteurized and thermally processed
- usually filtered to a clear liquid
- may also be boiled to form a concentrate and then water is re-added
- may include preservatives and has a far longer shelf life than cider
- may be made entirely from the same variety of apples (Jonagold, for example)
- usually bottled by nation-wide producers
Apple cider made by Kathi and her husband, using their own press. Here you can see the cider is clearly a darker color than the juice.
(Photo from Feathering My Nest)
- unfiltered and may include bits of apple or skin
- those bits of apple oxidize when they hit the air, same as when you cut an apple open and let it sit a while, and turn brown, hence cider's distinctive color
- used to be unpasteurized, but many apple cider producers now do pasteurize theirs, but not for as long as apple juice is pasteurized
- no preservatives, which means it will stay fresh & unfermented for, at most, 2 weeks
- often is made with several varieties of apples in the same batch, or using apples that have more tannin and generally are not eaten raw
- contains more polyphenols (specific type of antioxidants) and more pectin (which happens to be beneficial in fighting colon cancer)
- often made locally
This is how most apple cider is made, or pressed
(Photo from Noto Fruit Farm & Cider Mill)
These people are pressing apples to make cider. Technically, they could drink it right from the press.
(Photo by Dan Shorock, of the Sawlog 'n' Strings Bluegrass Festival)
- In terms of mutritional content that is typically shown on packaging labels, apple juice and apple cider are roughly the same. They both have about 100-120 calories per 8 oz serving and about 22 grams of sugar, and surprisingly little Vitamin C or other nutrients.
- To throw in one last item, apple cider vinegar is apple cider plus a particular form of bacteria, colloquially known as "mother of vinegar," which is added to turn the cider more acidic.
Food Reference, Apple Cider, Apple Juice
Cooking Club of America, What's the difference between apple juice and apple cider?
Amy Topel, "Apple Cider - The Essence of Fall," The Green Guide, October 4, 2005
Rees Fruit Farm, Our Apple Cider
New England Apples, Apples the healthy snack
Dear Uncle Ezra, Addicted to Apple Cider
University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, Home Apple Cider Production