Cider is basically defined as a fermented alcoholic beverage made from fruits, traditionally from apple. Ciders could also be made using other fruits such as Pear, which is commonly called as Perry or the Pear Cider.
The alcohol content of a cider could reach upto 8.5%. An apple wine differs from cider, when an extra sugar or fruit has been added resulting in a secondary fermentation thereby increasing the alcoholic strength. In the United States, the alcoholic cider is popularly known as the ‘‘Hard Cider’’, while the name ‘‘Cider’’ by itself stands for the raw apple juice.
The flavor of cider depends on the blending of juice from different apple varieties. Cider makers are most particular about designing a blend that will create the desired flavor and produce the perfect balance between sweetness and tartness.
Cider Making Process
1) Picking the Apples.
Traditional cider making starts with the picking of the apples. These are left to mature for a week. They are washed, cut and ground into a mash or pulp. The apple pulp is known as the Pomace.
2) Extracting the Apple Juice.
The Pomace must be crushed to extract the juice. This is done in a cider press. Several types of press are used. The traditional type is a rack and cloth press.
Layers of Pomace are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the apple juice is extracted. The pomace is pressed until it is solid and no more juice runs out.
The freshly pressed apple juice is fermented using wild yeast or pitching with cultured yeast.
In some commercial operations it is concentrated and stored for later conversion to cider, in which case it is extensively treated to pasturise it and to remove pectin. The fresh juice may be fermented in one of two different ways. Traditional cider making relies on wild yeasts. The fermentation starts in 1-2 days and continues for several weeks. When the fermentation is over, the cider is allowed to mature for 5-6 months.
Alternatively the juice is treated with Sulphur dioxide to inhibit natural wild yeasts, and is then fermented with added pure yeast cultures. This method is used in high output commercial operations. After the initial fermentation subsides, the cider is left for the yeast to settle, and it is racked and placed into storage tanks. Storage may last 12-18 months, and the cider is blended with new and old ciders to moderate any excessive changes thus maintaining a consistent flavour profile year on year.
Sulphur dioxide is added at this stage to maintain the stability of the cider. The resulting product may be considered analagous to keg beer.
Traditional cider is often served completely flat and may be cloudy, while the modern Ciders are more commonly the sparkling type. Cloudiness and the flavours vary depending on the fruits, fermentation, racking procedures etc.
A word about Sulphites:
Addition of sulphur dioxide is the most common way of controlling unwanted organisms. Aerobic yeasts, and lactic and acetic acid bacteria are generally destroyed. The activity of other yeasts is usually inhibited. As well as preventing infections, the sulphur dioxide also has an anti-oxidant function producing a cleaner flavour. This is not necessarily an advantage, the use of sulphur dioxide has led to sweeter ciders with a loss of the apple character in the flavour.
Cider as a Nutritious Alternative: