A is For Apple Cider – A Favorite Fall Drink With An Interesting History

Hot or cold, hard or spiced, fall's favorite drink has an interesting history. Take a look!

Mention apple cider and it conjures up images of curling up by the fireplace on a cold autumn evening. It’s one of the pure joys of fall, right alongside apple picking, colorful leaves, fuzzy sweaters, and warm apple desserts. Apple cider is much more than a seasonal beverage—for many families, it is a treasured tradition. Hot or cold, spiced or plain, apple cider is a treat for all the senses. Here’s everything you’ve always wanted to know about this tangy autumn delight!

What is Apple Cider?

Apple cider - Cider

In many parts of the world, “cider” indicates a fermented beverage, but in the US and most of Canada, cider normally refers to an unfermented, unfiltered, sometimes unpasteurized form of apple juice. Unlike clear, sweet apple juice, apple cider is cloudy and more tart. Mulled cider is apple cider mixed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and served warm.

Make your own mulling spice mix!

How is Apple Cider Made?

Watch how apple cider is made!

Cider mills are popular destinations for agritourists seeking out the season’s freshest apple cider, cider doughnuts (yes, the batter contains cider!), and apples fresh from the orchard. Apple cider is typically made from a blend of different types of apples to give the beverage a more balanced flavor of sweet and tart. Apples are first ground into a pulp, then pressed to extract the juice. The juice quickly oxidizes, giving the cider its deep amber color. Apple cider is typically made in the cooler months because hot weather hastens fermentation.

Apple Cider – Any Health Benefits?

Hot mulled cider or spiced tea mug in woman hand outdoor

Are there health benefits to drinking apple cider? Absolutely! Because apple cider comes straight from the pressed fruit, you get many of the polyphenols (plant-based micronutrients and antioxidants) present in fresh apples which are excellent for heart health.

Apple cider is also a tasty drink that can help you stay hydrated. It helps alleviate constipation and the symptoms associated with IBS thanks to its pectin content. And all those polyphenols are great at chasing away free radicals which cause cell damage.

While it tends to be high in natural sugar, apple cider contains some fiber, a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, along with minerals such and calcium, iron, and potassium. An 8 ounce serving of apple cider contains 120 calories, 0.3 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrate, and 24 grams of sugar.

Hard Cider? A Hard History

Hard apple cider.

Hard cider has had an interesting history. It’s hard to imagine, but hard cider was America’s go-to, most popular alcoholic beverage. So you may be wondering, why did it fall out of favor? While it’s making a strong comeback, with craft cideries popping up everywhere these days, it had taken a back seat to beer for many decades and almost completely disappeared. But why?

Historians cite the Temperance Movement as the reason for hard cider’s decline. The Temperance Movement was an organized effort in the early 1900s to limit or outlaw the consumption and production of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Advocates promoted moderation and encouraged Americans to reduce the amount of alcohol they consumed.

Staunch supporters of the movement targeted the cider industry. Because cider was so cheap to make and plentiful, it was deemed a major contributor to the problem of excess. Soon, apple orchards were being burned to the ground by angry activists, destroying nearly all of them.

What about Applejack?

Applejack is distilled apple cider, made even “harder” into a spirit. While hard cider contains about 4% – 6% alcohol, applejack contains as much as 30% alcohol or 60 proof.

See how hard cider is made in the video below!

Cider Trivia

  • By the time of the American Revolution, one in every ten farms in New England operated its own cider mill.
  • September 30 is National Cider Day in the US. In the UK, it’s November 18th, the date when legendary William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head.
  • It takes approximately 36 pieces of fruit to make one gallon of apple cider.
  • In the US, cider is categorized as wine. Most likely because the process more closely resembles wine making than beer making.
  • In the 14th Century, it is said children were baptized in cider, as it was cleaner than the water.
  • President John Adams drank a glass of cider every morning because he believed it promoted good health—he lived to be 90!

Delicious Recipes With Apple Cider

Apple cider is a popular beverage but it’s also great for cooking. Use apple cider to moisten stuffing for turkey or chicken or to baste baked apples. It can also be boiled into a syrupy glaze for cakes.

Here are some additional recipe ideas to get you started.

Homemade Boozy Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Apple Cider

Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup butter, softened
  • 1/4  cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1 gallon apple cider

Instructions
 

  • Beat brown sugar, butter, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well blended and fluffy. Heat apple cider in a saucepan over medium heat until hot. Fill individual mugs with hot apple cider, stirring in 1 tablespoon butter mixture. Serve with cinnamon sticks for stirring. (Butter mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Makes approximately 12 servings.
Keyword Buttered Apple Cider Recipe, hot buttered apple cider
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Sunday roast - Roast chicken

Roast Chicken with Apple Stuffing and Cider Sauce

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pounds whole roasting chicken
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Stuffing:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 onion, half diced and half whole
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions
 

  • To make the stuffing, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place apple pieces in skillet and sauté. Add diced onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tarragon, breadcrumbs, apple cider, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
    Loosen skin on breasts and thighs of chicken by sliding fingers under the skin. Push stuffing under skin, distributing evenly. Tie legs with a six-inch piece of twine. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper on the inside and outside of the chicken. Place onion half inside the cavity of the chicken. Place chicken in roasting pan; bake for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
    To make the sauce, transfer chicken from the roasting pan onto a cutting board. Scrape bits from the bottom of the pan, then pour pan drippings into a saucepan. Whisk in flour; warm over medium heat. Gradually whisk in apple cider and chicken broth. Bring to simmer; cook over very low heat for 3 minutes. Stir in tarragon and apple cider vinegar.
    Carve chicken and arrange on serving plate. Sauce may be served on the side for individual glazing. Makes 4 servings.
Keyword apple cider chicken recipe, apple cider roasted chicken, whole roast chicken recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Grandma’s Apple Bread Pudding

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat bread cubes
  • 1/2 cup apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions
 

  • Mix bread, apple, and butter in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, honey, cider, vanilla, and cinnamon; pour over bread mixture. Let stand for 1 hour. Pour pudding into the baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees F. for about 45 minutes or until pudding is firm. Serve warm with ice cream. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
    Use apple cider to moisten stuffing! Check out this tip.
    With contributions from writer Dondra Vaughn.
Keyword apple bread pudding recipe, apple bread pudding tasty, upside down apple bread pudding
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Use apple cider to moisten stuffing! Check out this tip.

With contributions from writer Dondra Vaughn.

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Do you have a question or an idea for an article? Contact us!

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Cathy Henson

Several years ago my hubby & I planted 5 apple trees of different varieties…….we had two trees no make it but, the others thrived. Last year we got one bushel of beautiful apples! This was really good for a first crop we thought….this year we were blessed with two bushels! I made up sacks & gave to neighbors and we enjoyed several pies, cobblers & two pans of baked apples! They were delicious and really a treat…..the last ones on the trees a neighbor came & picked while we were on vacation. They came in late July & mid August. Next year I plan to slice up a few bags & freeze them to enjoy in the Winter. Great articles as I enjoy drinking lots of apple juice & ciders in the fall.

Lisa Rager

What are the best apples to use for these recipes?

Lisa Rager

What are the best apples to use for making these recipes?

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