Hard cider is prepared from the fermented juice of apples. Although any variety of apple can be used, the juice of Cider Apples is heavenly and makes the best hard cider. The beverage is popular among the citizens of United Kingdom.
The history of fermenting apples goes back as far as 55 BC when the Romans reached Kent, England and saw the English enjoying this drink. Hard cider was considered the Holy Grail among the English and was so sacred to them that they baptized their children with it. Between the 14th and 17th centuries the working population in England was paid in cider.
In the 18th century a missionary, John Chapman commonly known as Johnny Appleseed, brought cider apples to America. He made nurseries of cider apple trees in the Ohio River regions and The Great Lakes. It was only a matter of time before a small nursery of cider apples could be spotted in most farms.
Making Hard Cider
Scratting and Pressing: Cider makers who believe in producing the best hard cider prefer to use cider apples exclusively. With time and experience cider making has become an art. Selective breeding is now used to cultivate cider apples to enhance the taste of the final product.
The apples collected from the orchards are scratted and made into pulp or pomace. Electricity has replaced the traditional methods of scratting, where it was done by using stones or in traditional cider mills run on horse-power or driven by hand. Layers of cider pulp known as cheeses is transferred to the cider press and built into a block. The block is then exposed to high temperature until all the juice is drained from the pomace. Before being put into casks or large open containers, the juice is strained through a large hair-sieve and left for fermentation.
Fermentation: “Slow and Steady Wins the Taste” is what we can say for hard cider. It is believed to taste best if it is allowed to ferment slowly. Hence a temperature of 4-16 degrees C (40 – 60 degree F) is considered best for its fermentation. Yeast such as Saccharomyces bayanus is added for fermentation of the beverage or it is left to natural yeasts to do their job.
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Just before fermentation can consume all the sugar, the juice is racked into new containers leaving the grime at the bottom of the old containers. The containers are filled to the brim making sure there is no space for air so that the cider does not come in contact with acetic bacteria. The remaining sugar in the liquid produces carbon dioxide, forms a layer on it and protects it from air contact. More sugar can be added at this stage. Racking can be repeated if the liquor is found to be cloudy.
Various flavors or fruit purees of fruits such as cranberry, grape, cherry, and raspberry are used to make variations. The hard cider is ready to drink after three months, but for a better result it is left to mature in casks for three years or more to get the flamboyance in the cider.
Blending and Bottling: Ciders made from different varieties of apples are blended to suit the taste of market. High quality of ciders is made by using the champagne method, which is an expensive process as it requires special bottles, cork and other equipment. People who make cider at home normally use beer bottles, which is economical.
Types Of Hard Cider
Traditionally hard ciders were dark and cloudy with a strong taste of apples, but the mass production makes clear and sparkling ciders. They can appear to being cloudy to completely clear and their colors can be from looking clear to amber or brown. The cider gets its color during the process of filtration and fermentation. Hard cider can be filtered into many variations, but we can broadly divide hard cider into two categories:
White Cider: It is not easy to make white cider. Here the maker wisely uses a variety of apples to create a clear and sparkling cider. White ciders are sweet and energizing.
Black Cider: This variety of ciders is usually 7-8% stronger and gets the name of black from the two brand names Union Black and Barnstormer Black.
Top 3 Countries Producing Hard Cider With A Twist
United Kingdom: The British ciders are distinctively categorized into two groups. West Country ciders are mainly made from cider apples with tannin rich, low acid cider. Eastern Country Ciders are made with a crisp and sharp taste produced by a mix of eating and cooking apples. Severn Cider, Oliver’s, and Perry’s are some of the top ciders in this group.
Austria: Mostviertal from Lower Austria has the largest pear orchards in Europe. Some of the best ciders made with pears are found here. Cider is known as “Most” and is served in the “Mostheuriger”, which is the name for a local inn. Some of the famous ciders served in this country are Goldkehlchen and Kopparberg.
Belgium: Cidrerie Ruwet is the only craft cider producer in Belgium. Heineken owns the other cider makers in Belgium, which produce for the local and international markets. Local cider makers like to add cherry, raspberry, and black currant for unique flavors of cider. Zonhoven specializes in manufacturing private labels for some European retailers offering them a huge range of flavors and packaging options.
The taste of hard cider has taken the world by storm and has become a popular drink in many countries. Globalization has helped in lowering the cost of apples, giving the world an affordable and tasty beverage.
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