When we tell people we are thinking about starting a Cidery on our farm, the conversation usually goes like this “Oh, you mean apple juice??” OR “Oh, so like (insert fizzy-alco-pop brandname here)” OR “so…like Strongbow??”
Our answer? None of the above.
Traditional Cider is not juice. True Cider is not a girlish ‘fruit flavoured’ alcopop. Authentic Cider is not a mass-marketed, watered down version of it’s true self. Right now there is great opportunity to share with people what a quality, refreshing beverage that a full-juice, slowly fermented and aged cider is.
Most of what is currently on the shelves at the liquor store and labelled ‘cider’ starts as a mixture of water, apple juice concentrate, and high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars. This is fermented to a very high alcohol level and then cut with large amounts of water. Flavourings and sugars are added back before bottling; the finished cider has very little actual juice in it.
So ….what is true cider?
- Traditional cider is made from fresh pressed, unpasteurized apple juice and fermented much like wine.
- The fermentation and maturation process takes 6-9 months, making traditional cider a true ‘slow food’.
- Different varieties of apples and yeasts lend different characteristics to the finished cider, much like grapes to wine.
- It is usually 4-8% abv
- It can be carbonated or still.
- It is natural, gluten-free, and usually produced from locally sourced apples.
- Cider uses apples that otherwise are wasted or heirloom varieties that are not considered edible.
- Finished cider can range from dry-sweet.
- The finished cider has at most 15% water added to it, and sometimes some sugar to sweeten it.
- If sweeteners are added, the cider must be pasteurized or kept in cold storage to prevent re-fermentation
- Due to the full-juice content, the extensive time required for aging, and the complex character of authentic cider, production costs (and therefore prices) are higher than 6-pack mass-commercial ciders.
While cider was once North America’s most popular alcoholic beverage (do you really think Johnny Appleseed was planting all those apples only for eating?!), after Prohibition apple producers scrambled to reposition the apple as something to be eaten fresh (“An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”) and subsequent propogation of apples was for the dessert market. Cider fell into relative obscurity in North America during much of the 20th Century, and the term “cider” most often conjured up thoughts of fizzy, artificially flavoured alcoholic drinks that didn’t really have much to do with apples.
However, authentic cider is experiencing a remarkable resurgence in traditional apple growing areas on both the east and west coasts of North America as more and more people are discovering what a refreshing and delicious beverage traditional cider is. Many craft-cideries producing high quality traditional ciders have sprung up in the Pacific Northwest as well as the Eastern States.
British Columbia also has several Cideries – both established and new. Check out these Cideries for a taste of an authentic traditional cider.