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?
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.
How is Apple Cider 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?
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 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!
- 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.
Hot Buttered Apple Cider
- 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
- 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. Makes approximately 12 servings.
Roast Chicken with Apple Stuffing and Cider Sauce
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds whole roasting chicken
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 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
- 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
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- 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.
Grandma’s Apple Bread Pudding
- 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 honey or maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat Oven to 325 degrees F.
- Mix bread, apple, and butter in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, maple syrup or 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.
With contributions from writer Dondra Vaughn.