Three Springs farmers market shopper and devoted cider enthusiast Erin writes:
"Hi, guys! We are drinking your delicious cider and having an animated conversation about what IS the difference between apple cider and apple juice (and we wondered), what's your opinion on this great debate?"
The question is a great one - and timely, since we were able to roll out a very popular Fuji Apple Juice for our customers this past spring. While the question was pretty clear (like the consistency of, say, apple juice), the answer is a little more murky and mysterious - a quality it shares with apple cider. We're gonna chew on this simple difference and spend a little time on how each is made in the hopes of providing some delicious distinction between the two!
On the surface, the two "apple-y" beverages are not very dissimilar. Both are pasteurized and list as their ingredients only "the juice of apples". As you can see, the difference between cider and juice is pretty minimal. The main difference is the apples used. For the purposes our discussion, I'll explain the difference in our cider and our juice. Our juice, typical of many juices, is a one variety product. We use only Fuji Apples in our juice. They are very sweet and make a palatable juice on their own. The Fuji apple juice is heated in excess of 200 degrees Fahrenheit so it can be shelf-stable bottled without the addition of any preservatives. This also effectively kills whatever bacteria and impurities the product could have contained. The resultant product is much lighter in color and consistency. We like the sweetness of the juice because we know kids love sweet beverages and we figure parents can dig it if they can serve their children a sweet beverage that comes from a local, sustainably raised farm and contains no added sugars! It's common for grocery store apple juices to be filtered to remove any hints and traces of apple sediment from the apple skins. Though they might seem visually unappeeling... er unappealing (can't believe I almost went there), the majority of an apple's nutrition is found in the skin, thus we leave it right where it is. Caveat Emptor: grocery store juices also commonly contain preservatives, sugar ("corn sugar" and otherwise), and apple juice concentrate - concentrate bottlers can import from Turkey, China, etc. without labeling as such.
Cider, on the other hand, is best enjoyed when many apple varieties are present. As a matter of fact, the sheer variety of apple flavors (in addition to Jonathan and other semi-tart base apples) is the not-so-well kept secret to our cider's success. It's cloudy, complex, tart and sweet, and contains all that valuable sediment. Our cider is also UV pasteurized, or "cold" pasteurized. This is vital to flavor preservation, in my opinion. This specialized UV has been proven by Cornell University to be equally effective in removing harmful bacteria as heat pasteurization. Not only is flavor preserved, but this product actively ferments, for all the homebrew/homewine enthusiasts out there which also means all the phytochemicals beneficial to the digestive system are also present!
So in summary, there's not a lot of difference between the two beverages. However, when they're done right, you should be able to tell easily. Juices are clearer in color and consistency - a lighter, monochromatic beverage. Ciders are bold, complex, dark, and more rich in flavor. By definition, they are nearly the same. In execution, they are worlds apart!
Stay tuned to this blog for fun, informative videos on this topic - debuting in the coming weeks!
further "Ask A Grower" readings:
- "Ask A Grower" vol. VII - Why Are Peaches Fuzzy?
- "Ask A Grower" vol. VI - Grafting Workshop
- "Ask A Grower" vol. V - Proper Apple Storage
- "Ask A Grower" vol. III - Clingstone Peaches vs. Freestone Peaches
- "Ask A Grower" vol. II - Granny Smith Fables
- "Ask A Grower" vol I - Roots & Scions