Cider

Cider has different meanings in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both meanings refer to a product containing the juice of appless.

Table of contents
1 Unfermented Cider
2 Alcoholic ciders
3 Famous brands of cider
4 Cider in Other Countries
5 Related drinks
6 How to make cider
7 References

Unfermented Cider

In the US, cider was traditionally fermented, but that is now referred to as hard cider. Today, cider is a non-alcoholic beverage; a sub-category of apple juice, sometimes made from early-harvest apples which have a lower sugar content and are more acidic, thus cider has a more tart, tangy taste than apple juice. It is generally (though not always) unfiltered (giving it an opaque appearance from suspended solids), and is traditionally unpasteurized (It is occasionally still sold unpasteurized which is considered to have a better flavor, but the possibility of salmonella and E. coli infection means that most apple cider is pasteurized). Apple ciders are often made from blends of several different apples to give a balanced taste. Some businesses may try to pass off standard apple juice as cider. There is some local competitiveness among cider mills in apple country for the highest quality blends, and makers keep their formulas secret. One trick used to add interest to a cider blend is the addition of a percentage of crabapples. Cider doughnuts are often sold at cider mills and contain cider in the batter.

"Hot cider" or "mulled cider" is a popular fall (autumn) and winter beverage, consisting of (nonalcoholic) cider, heated to a temperature just below boiling, with cinnamon, orange peel, nutmeg, cloves and other spices added. Another cider available in the US is "sparkling cider", a carbonated non-alcoholic beverage made from filtered apple cider or apple juice. The alcoholic apple drink (see below) is referred to as "hard cider" in North America.

Alcoholic ciders

In the UK, cider is an alcoholic drink brewed from apple juice. It is predominantly (but by no means exclusively) brewed in the south-west and west of England. Cider is often stronger than beer, and will frequently be over 6% alcohol by volume. The common eating apples are unsuitable for cider brewing, being low in tannins: specific apple varieties bred specially for cider brewing are preferred.

Ciders comes in a variety of tastes, from sweet to dry. Sweet cider tends to be popular with young people, and is often the drink of choice for teenagers in the UK (along with alcopops). This is aided by preferentially low duty (= tax) rates for cider compared to beer, which reduces its cost.

Modern, mass-produced ciders are generally heavily processed, and resemble sparkling wine in appearance. These are called hard cider in the U.S. More traditional brands, often known as scrumpy, tend to be darker and more cloudy, as less of the apple is filtered out. They are often stronger than processed varieties. In very large quantities (in excess of 2 gallons per day) scrumpy can cause temporary blindness due to trace amounts of arsenic found in apple seeds. Such consumption is extremely rare. Abdominal pains known as "Devon colic" have been attributed to mild lead poisoning: the acidic juice dissolving lead from the traditional cider presses used in that region.

Famous brands of cider

  • Bulmer's
  • Scrumpy Jack
  • Strongbow
  • Symonds
  • Thatcher's

Cider in Other Countries

In
Australia, 'cider' can be either an alcoholic drink as described above, or a sparkling non-alcoholic beverage made from apples. Alcoholic cider is sold in bottleshops, while the non-alcoholic version is stocked in the soft-drink lanes of the supermarket.

French cidre is an alcoholic drink produced predominantly in Normandy. It varies in strength from below 4% to considerably more. Some is carbonated and sold in Champagne-style bottles.

Related drinks

An old practice with cider is the making of applejack, where a barrel of cider is left outside during the winter. When the temperature is low enough the water in the cider will start to freeze. If the ice is removed, the (now more concentrated) alcoholic solution is left behind in the barrel. If the process is repeated often enough, and the temperature is low enough, you can make some very strong spirit indeed.

Other alcoholic beverages are also made from apples, such as apple wine, and the distilled spirits apple brandy, and calvados.

Other fruits can be used to make cider-like drinks. The most popular is perry which is made from fermented pear-juice. A branded perry known as Babycham, marketed principally as a women's drink and sold in miniature Champagne-style bottles, was once popular but has now become unfashionable. Fermented peach juice can be made into "peachy".

How to make cider

Scratting and Pressing

After the apples are gathered from the trees they are "scratted" (ground) into what is called pomace or pommage, either by means of a common pressing stone with a circular trough, or by a cider mill, formerly driven by the hand or by horse-power, but these days likely to be electric. When the pulp is thus reduced to a great degree of fineness, it is conveyed to the cider press, where it is formed by pressure into a kind of cake, which is called the cheese.

This is effected by placing clear, sweet straw, or hair cloths between the layers of pomace usually alternating with slatted ash-wood racks, until there is a pile of 10 or 12 layers. It is important to minimise that time the pomace is exposed to air, to reduce oxidation — and at the same time the cheese must be constructed evenly, or the whole mess will go slithering on to the floor.

This pile is then subjected to different degrees of pressure in succession, until all the must or juice is squeezed from the pomace. This juice, after being strained in a coarse hair-sieve, is then put either into open vats or close casks, and the pressed pulp is either given to farm animals as winter feed (or thrown away) or used to make liqueurs.

Fermentation

Fermentation is best effected at a temperature of 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is low for most kinds of fermentation, but works for cider as it leads to slower fermentation with less loss of delicate aromas.

Shortly before the fermentation consumes all the sugar, the liquor is "racked" into new vats. This leaves dead yeast cells and other undesirable material at the bottom of the old vat. At this point it becomes important to exclude airborne acetic bacteria, so care is taken to fill the vat completely, and the fermenting of the remaining available sugar generates a small amount of carbon dioxide that helps to prevent air seeping in. This also creates a certain amount of sparkle, and sometimes extra sugar is added at this stage for this purpose and also to raise the alcohol level. Racking is sometimes repeated if the liquor remains cloudy.

The cider is ready to drink at this point, though more often it is matured in the vats for up to two or three years.

Blending and Bottling

For larger-scale cider production, ciders from vats produced from different varieties of apple may be blended to accord with market taste. If the cider is to be bottled, usually some extra sugar is added for sparkle. Higher quality ciders can be made using the champagne method, but this is expensive in time and money and requires special corks, bottles, and other equipment.

References




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