St. Patrick’s Day is this weekend and although beer is one of the most popular choices used to celebrate, sommelier Natalie MacLean suggests you try cider for a change. She’s back on the show today to give us a lesson about cider, how it compares to other drinks and a couple of recipes for you to try at home.
Hard cider, which is made from fermented apple juice, is gaining a lot of popularity right now in many places of the world, but especially in the UK. The first known evidence of intentionally fermented cider is from around 55 B.C. Romans marched into Kent, England, and found locals fermenting the apple juice into alcoholic beverages.
WHY IS CIDER DIFFERENT?
A lot of people don’t know the exact difference between cider and beer. Natalie tells us beer is made from malted barley and cider is made from apple juice which makes it a gluten-free alternative for beer. Also, a beer can have fruit as one of the ingredients while no true cider will have malted grains. However, beer, cider and wine all rely on yeast to ferment sugars to produce alcohol. Alcohol wise, cider is in the 6-8% range, while beer is usually around 4-6% and wine varies around 9-15%. The fermentation process is similar to that of wine, but cider ferments for a shorter time to keep more of the sweetness in the beverage.
HOW IT’S MADE
The apples for a cider are harvested, washed and crushed into a pulp called pomace. It is then pressed to extract its juice and strained through cheesecloth into jugs for non-alcoholic cider. The process for hard cider includes one more step where it’s fermented using yeast in either oak barrels or stainless steel tanks for 4-6 months.
TYPES OF CIDER
Sweet vs. dry hard cider
Both dry and sweet ciders have all of the sugar fermented and converted into alcohol. But, sweet ciders will then have sugar added in afterwards, while some of the sugar in dry ciders remains unfermented and have a higher alcohol percentage.
On the show, we had:
- Nicolas Cider Little Normandie Rose Sparking Cider: medium dry with floral and apple blossom aromas.
- Bordelet Sidre Brut: crisp, dry cider with noticeable tannins.
- Cider Bouche Brut: dry, with a hint of caramelized apples on the finish and made with 30 kinds of apples.
Organic Ciders – those that are Certified Organic by Pro-Cert don’t use any synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides in growing the apples and don’t add any sulphites during the cider making process. The Great Canadian Cider Company works with local organic apple growers in Ontario to rehabilitate organic orchards that have been neglected.
- D’ont Poke the Bear: medium sweet with aromas of crisp ripe apples.
- The Great Canadian Cider Company Organic Cider.
First thing we should know is the term “brix”. It’s the technical term for how they measure sweetness in a liquid. Ice cider juice is measured at 30-35 brix, while regular hard cider’s level is at about 12-14 brix.
- You can try Domaine Pinnacle Sparkling.
This type isn’t too different to regular cider, as they both have about 6% alcohol. Sparkling cider contains carbonation that is added once the fermentation is complete.
TYPES OF APPLES
The apples that we usually eat, such as Red Delicious, are too sweet to make cider and don’t have enough acidity to balance it. In England, they use more than forty apple varieties to make cider while in Canada; the most popular varieties are Granny Smith and McIntosh.
Apples aren’t the only fruit used to make cider. There are ciders made from pears, blueberries, blackberries and more.
Most ciders are way too cold when served because they’re probably coming straight from the fridge. Although that’s ok for some sparkling kinds, regular hard cider should be in room temperature for about an hour before serving.
To create pairings, think about what flavours could go well with fermented apples. One of these flavours is cheese; whether it’s brie or cheddar, depending on the cider you’re drinking.
Try out the recipes below: