You may be surprised to learn that hard cider was all the rage in England during the 1600s and that it was brought it over to America by the Pilgrims. As the colonies started to form, settlers preferred not to drink the rancid water that was often all that was available and defaulted to cider. The legendary Johnny Appleseed didn't go around passing out seeds to big red eating apples; what he spread were seeds for small, ugly, acidic apples suited for making cider. As immigrants from other parts of Europe arrived in America bringing their own drinking traditions — like the Germans with their lagers and the Spanish and Italians with their wine — hard cider's popularity waned. Prohibition didn't help, and generations of Americans grew up thinking that "cider" was just another name for apple juice.
Yes, we drink different alcoholic beverages for nuances of flavor and aroma, but another motivation is to enjoy the buzz they provide. Cider has an alcoholic content similar to that of beer, with most ciders ranging from 4.5 percent to 10 percent alcohol by volume. Both the cider and beer categories include a few outliers that contain an even higher alcohol content.
Cider Can Be Made From Other Fruits
Unless otherwise specified, cider is made from apples. A variation made from pears, called perry, is also available. Home cider-makers can turn other fruits into cider, as well, including peaches, plums, cherries, blackberries, and strawberries.
Cider Isn’t Always Enjoyed Ice-Cold
Artisanal cider is best enjoyed at room temperature — if possible, right out of the cask or barrel. Of course, if you prefer your cider cold, that's up to you.
Do-It-Yourself Cider Aging
Try laying some artisanal cider down for a few months or even longer to let it develop in the bottle. Be sure to purchase hard cider with at least six percent alcohol by volume and shy away from commercial flavored ciders, because those have a shorter shelf life.
Drink in Moderation
Hard cider is made from pure apple juice, so offers the same health benefits the juice does. Hard cider, like unfermented juice, contains plenty of vitamin C and a considerable number of antioxidants. In fact, there are more antioxidants in hard cider outweighs than in green or black tea or vegetables like tomatoes. Traditional hard cider is also gluten-free. These benefits sound good, but enjoy in moderation since hard cider tends to be high in calories.
Easy Homemade Brews
Believe it or not, it’s simple to make hard cider at home. If this idea is up your alley, you will first want to source fresh local apples. Yeast is required. Remember to use the correct amount of yeast since it has considerable influence on taste. Research which yeast is right for you and where to find it. There are a number of cider recipes to filter through as you plan.
Cider is not just reserved for happy hour. It can be easily paired with savory dishes. One of the most classic food combinations is pork and apples, so why not pair hard apple cider with roasted or grilled pork? You can even try spicy Asian food with cider because the tart-sweet character of the beverage tames the kick of t Asian spice. If you have a cream-based dinner dish like a casserole, try a semi-dry cider as the effervescence cuts through the rich cream.
Hard Cideries Are Popping Up Across the Country
Beer may be king, but cider is gaining in popularity. According to the University of Vermont, hard cider production in the country has increased by 73 percent since 2008. In just eight years, commercial and small-scale hard cider brands have made an impressive impact on the industry. Local farmers have jumped on the bandwagon: in 2014, 18 million bushels of fruit were used for cider production, yielding 54 million gallons of hard cider.
Some Ciders Hop Into Beer Territory
Some ciderists are starting to incorporate hops into the fermentation process. Hops are floral pellets of the hops plant and are a main flavoring ingredient in beer. Bitter oil in hops contributes to the bitter tastes often found in beers like the popular IPA. Although the idea may be sacrilegious to purists, some modernists have been experimenting. One reason for the addition is the bitter flavors help balance the sweetness in the hard cider yielding a more mature, aromatic finish. If you don't like the flavor of hops (or have a gluten allergy), be sure to check your cider to see whether or not hops are included.
Sweet to Drink
Hard cider is usually sweeter than beer, and some are sweeter than others. The length of fermentation determines the amount of sugar in the brew. The sweeter the hard cider, the lower its alcohol content will be. Conversely, drier ciders are lower in sugar, but have a higher alcohol content.