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Mar 16, 2009 03:37 PM

What is hard cider?

I am interested in a recipe that calls for hard cider and not only do I not know what this is but I have no idea where to buy it. Can someone help?

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  1. Hard cider is cider that has been fermented so it is carbonated and alcoholic - along the lines of beer. Most often it is shelved alongside beer in markets.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      Do I infer from your answer that, in America, you have non-alcoholic cider, then?

      In the UK and Ireland, cider is always alcoholic (although by no means always carbonated).

      How would your cider differ from apple juice (or is this just what you call apple juice)?

      1. re: Harters

        Interesting about the carbonation. I've only ever had carbonated hard cider (from any country of origin), but you have many more styles to choose from than we do, including our imports.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          In Spain they have a special way of pouring cider to aerate it. Jose Andres demonstrates it in his Made in Spain series.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Thanks to all for the explanations. Yet another food difference on the different sides of "the pond".

            Caitlin - most cider sold in bottles is carbonated, although you can get non-carb. In both the UK and Ireland, it's also sold in pubs, on draft, just like beer. I suspect many British teenagers of my generation (and for some years later) will have had pints of cider as their first underage pub experiences and first experiences of getting horribly drunk. Certainly mine was, aged about 16, and I remember that first mega-hangover like it was yesterday. I quickly graduated to pints of bitter (it's a beer).

            This may be of some more general interest about cider styles, etc;


            1. re: Harters

              Thanks for the link. Pubs in the US serve draft cider, too, though hardly universally. I appreciate when they do, as I prefer it to beer. I have had had domestic (US), English, and French ones, but they've all been fizzy.

          2. re: Harters

            Here in the US, the word cider alone always means sweet cider: non-filtered, non-alcoholic apple juice. Apple juice is nearly always filtered, frequently pasteurized, and generally clearer than cider. "Hard" cider always means alcoholic, and it can be made either with ale yeasts or champagne yeasts. The former style is packaged like beer with similar (but sometimes lower) alcoholic levels to beer, the latter will produce a drier beverage with a higher alcoholic content and characteristics more like a sparkling wine.

            I prefer hard cider to beer, and never the champagne yeast products. While there are several good domestic hard ciders, I prefer an Irish import, Magners. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, though, I love the old-fashioned sweet cider I grew up on.

            1. re: mcsheridan

              What is the difference between Apple Juice and Cider?

              Martinelli’s apple juice and cider are the same; the only difference is the label. Both are 100% pure juice from U.S. grown fresh apples. We continue to offer the cider label since some consumers simply prefer the traditional name for apple juice.

              Martinelli's is best known for their 'Sparkling Cider', which is sweet, carbonated juice.

              1. re: paulj

                Outside of orchards, there is no difference other than the fact that apple juice is often filtered - otherwise, both are dead because of pasteurization.

                You cannot get living cider outside of orchards in the USA due to rule of the FDA several years ago designed to protect consumers from the evils of apples.

                To get real cider, you must go to an orchard and look for unpasteurized cider (and sometimes perry - the pear equivalent of cider). It will start to ferment after about 3-4 weeks in the fridge.

                What I do is get some in the fall, let it ferment, and then save a portion of the fermented cider as a mother, which I add to supermarket ciders that have been pasteurized but don't have added preservatives - if they preservatives, they cannot be seduced into fermenting.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Here in Canada a compound is added to prevent fermentation - for the life of me I can't understand why I can get grape juice for wine anywhere but am prevented from buying a jug of straight cider from a farm's cider press and letting it sit under my sink for a couple of weeks for a treat. No yeast is needed - it is already there naturally.

                  Karl S if you put a bucket of your hard cider outside, let it freeze, remove the ice hunk and repeat the process you get "Apple Jack" I was told by a retired farmer. An apple spirit through "reverse distillation." I've never had the chance to try it.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    I bought unpasteurized cider about a month ago at a farmer's market. Now I'm wondering if I accidentally created a better product by forgetting it in the fridge!

                    1. re: Karl S

                      We've found that nice fresh cider will start to ferment a lot faster than that -- no more than a week. And it never goes to waste! LOL

                  2. re: mcsheridan

                    In Canada cider refers to apple juice in common parlance, although legally the word cider means the alcoholic stuff. I don't know if this is also true of the US.

              2. If you cannot find it, use apple juice spiked with a little vodka. Should be close.

                1. If you are in the LA area, Trader Joes carries a 'Newtons Folly' cider in a 6 pack.. I've found it works well in various Spanish recipes that call for 'cidra'. Parts of Spain, like Asturias, are better known for their cider than for their wine.

                  Yes, in the USA, unfermented apple juice is often called cider. Cider often means a less refined, unfiltered juice, while 'apple juice' is more likely to be a clear liquid, possibly reconstituted from concentrate. But the distinction is not fixed, subject to the marketing whims of the producer.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: paulj

                    It's true that the cider/juice definition is not fixed. Most often I see what's sold refrigerated called cider (these are usually flash-pasteurized, though you can sometimes by unpasteurized at farm stands and farmers' markets), and what's sold in bottles and shelf-stable cartons most often called juice. The latter has a cooked taste I don't like that the chilled stuff (which has a definite shelf life) does not.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      When I lived in Vancouver for 3 years, I enjoyed apple, pear or peach hard ciders, which varied from 5+% alcohol to 7% or so. They were pretty tasty and quite potent. Now that I'm again living in Ontario, in a bar I'm more likely to be offered ciders from the UK. My liquor store carries them as well, but has recently added one from Sweden that is pink hued, from apples, pears and berries. It's yummy. Regular cider, which is unfiltered apple juice, is available at many stores here as well. It's very nice. It tastes much better than anything that's been bottled and is shelf-safe.

                  2. Quebec now has a booming cider industry. They have the carbonated beer like 5-7% alcohol cider, they have sparking ciders of about 10% alcohol, they have ciders that are like wine but a bit sweeter, their most popular specialty seems to be ice cider made from apples picked after they freeze on the trees (it is very sweet and very yummy) and they even have hard liquor (40%) of different types... we just got sparkling pink cider made from an apple whose flesh is pink:)

                    all yummy stuff. I highly recommend that you order some of the ice cider if you would like to try a different product for dessert wine.

                    1. Don't be afraid to taste around. I pretty much ignored hard cider for a long time because I didn't like the U.S. versions.

                      Once I tried Strongbow (U.K. cider), I converted.
                      Personally, I prefer the cans vs. the bottled version; I like the extra carbonation. Since Strongbow seems to be in every bar that happens to have cider on tap, I suspect that it might be pretty mainstream...which in turn makes me think that there must be some really great cider in the U.K. that I've never tried.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: sebetti

                        Strongbow is THE mainstream product - undistinguished, fizzy, sweet and not very appley.

                        Most of the good products are not going to travel abroad as they will normally be served on draught. But then, these wouldnt have much if any carbonation.

                        If you do come across an outlet selling specialist UK ciders (or French ones - some very good ones from Normandy), the more interesting ones are likely to be in bottles rather than cans.

                        1. re: sebetti

                          There certainly are many ciders than range from sweet to dry, from 5% to 11%, from clear to unfiltered, from dead to live (ie on the lees). And there are many varieties of cider apples. The climates of England and Northern France are ideal for growing apples.

                          Much of the cider industry is similar to microbreweries.


                          In France they also use pears to make pear cider - known as a perry. This is also made in the UK but not to the same extent. The French also make an excellent apple brandy called Calvados.

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            Although we have many small local producers, the cider making industry is dominated by a couple or so major producers - primarily Bulmers which produces the up-mentioned Strongbow (which accounts for half of all UK cider sales). Most of these small producers are really only selling in their own locality (mainly south west England)

                            Perry is an even more specialist market. It generally has not had a good reputation in the UK since the 1970s when it was pretty much destroyed by the marketing of the brand leader - Babycham - as a "girly drink".

                            In the days when I drank alcohol, calvados was my spirit of choice, particularly after dinner as a digestive. I loved it. Very much. Which is one of the reasons why I no longer drink :-) .

                            We make a cider brandy (we can't call it calvados) in Somerset. It gets good reviews but I've not tried it.