WHAT APPLES ARE USED FOR HARD CIDER?
Domestic cider production grew by between 2005 and 2012 and continues to be sold. The industry’s revenue has increased by the millions more Americans who once doubted cider, or drank it by the gallon. We should know. People are loading trucks and drinking black hard cider!
If you’ve always had a passion for making hard apple cider and are considering doing this business full- or part-time, now’s the time to jump on it and leave you in the dust before the moving train takes off.
As great as this boom is for a return to old school, American traditions being revived by younger generations, there is a ‘little problem’.
No. Enough Apple
Not just ‘any’ apples. But cider apples. Hard Cider Apples. Apple eaters are called ‘Spitters’ because they taste awful when eaten alone. Ironically, used for regular or hard apple cider, they taste wonderful. They are called “bittersweet” and “bitter sharps”.
Unfortunately, they are not in the greatest demand as it was in the 1800s when hard cider was actually safe to drink with water. Today, water is good and safe to drink, so it is no longer a necessity, but a market demand.
Although the demand is rising, it hasn’t made enough waves to warrant apple growers to sacrifice the ‘cash crop’ for an unproven market that has yet to prove its longevity amid much interest.
We believe that is going to change in the next 5 – 15 years, but for now, the toughest cider producers will have to be creative with what we can get our hands on such as cooking and deserting varieties.
For Blake, we grow, produce and manufacture our own unique blend of cider apples for use in our hard ciders, giving us the unique flavor so many people are excited about. Roughly a third of Ciders grow their own apples, and we are one of them.
THE QUEST FOR THE BEST CIDER MAKING APPLES
To make good cider, you need two things – skillet and cider apples. If you want to make delicious cider, you need applesauce with a lot of sugar to encourage fermentation with specific levels of acid and tannins. You won’t find these *anywhere* at grocery stores or your local farmer’s market.
But if you grow your own apples, know someone who does or you’re willing to pay a premium for true cider apples, which are nearly extinct on American soil like the distinctively flavored Kingston. Black, Yarlington Mill, and Porter’s Perfection, you have a shot at making a blend of hard cider that’s truly unique.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find any of these apples in large batches, but if you can you can manage to get your hands on a few for personal taste or find a grower specially prepared to sell you if You’ve hit gold earlier than you intended to mass-produce.
WHAT APPLES MAKE GOOD CIDER?
The best cider apple tree varieties cider producers use include:
- American Varieties – Gold Rush (most popular and easy to obtain), Steman’s Winesap, Winesap, Crimson Crisp, Liberty, Black Twig, Arkansas Black, Roxbury Russet, Golden Russet, Harrison, Newtown Pippin (also known as Albemarle Pippin Goes), Cox Orange Pippin, Ashmead’s Kernel, Wickson, Ribston Pippin, Northern Detective, Baldwin
- French Varieties – Zabergou Rennet, Neuhau, Muscadet de Dieppe, Muscat de Lens, Vilberry, Michelin, Medel d’Or, Fréquin Rouge, Carmarion, Dabinet
- English Varieties – Chisel Jersey, Herefordshire Redstreak, Somerset Redstreak, Yarrington Mill, Tremlett Bitter, Harry Masters Jersey, Bullmer Norman, Brown Snout, Alice Bitter, Ashton Bitter, Major, Stembridge Jersey, White Jersey
- Bittersharps – Porter’s Perfection, Kingston Black
- Sharp – if you call it Calville Blanc d’Hiver (French), Tom Putt (English), Brown’s apple (English), Bramley’s sprout
- Dessert – Belle de Boscup, Nova Spy, St Edmunds Pippin’
Choosing the right variety for you these Hard Cider Apple Blends will give any cider maker the upper hand. The second and perhaps most important part of making cider is marketing and sales.
You can have the best Hard Apple Cider Yeast, Recipe, Bittersweet, and bittersharp apples, but if you don’t know how to market and sell what you have, at best it won’t grow beyond your cellar.
Beverage giants, Anheuser-Bush and MillerCoors, jumped into the industry along with Johnny Appleseed and Smith & Forge. One hard cider for each major brand.
With this strategy, they took relatively sub-par cider and helped expand the cider market due to the massive exposure. So if you’re a beginner and have limited funds, you can make a cider that’s delicious to the masses and make that single drink a household name.
As you gain market share and increase profits, you can add to your beverage portfolio to diversify. That’s what we recommend because it’s what we did ourselves.
Best Cider Apples
Fall wouldn’t be complete without a delicious glass of homemade apple cider whenever you want. Apple cider tastes exactly like the apple from which it is made. Homemade cider is good it means making your own apple cider which is a great way to make a drink that tastes just how you like it.
There’s a cider apple for everyone you love, from alcoholic and tart cider apples to incredibly sweet dessert varieties. With so many varieties of apples to you, it can be hard to know where to start. Don’t worry, because here you’ll learn all the best applesauce for cider.
Three Elements of Cider Apples
There are over 300 varieties of apples for cider, from tart cider apples like Granny Smith to sweet cider apples like Honeycrisp. No wonder picking an apple for cider can be so intimidating! It doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Three main factors affect the taste of apple cider: sugar, acid, and tannins.
If you’re making hard cider, the sugar content in the applesauce is significant. Obviously, a sweet apple will yield sweet apple cider. The term Brix is used to describe how much sugar is in an apple.
This is the percentage of juice that is sugar. The yeast in hard cider feeds on the sugar to make alcohol, so an apple with a higher Brix will make stronger hard cider. An apple of 11-15 Brix is generally preferred for making hard cider.
The more acid in a cider apple, the more “sharp” or “sharp” the apple tastes. This acid also slows down the process of oxidation that turns the juice brown.
If you want natural cider that stays lighter in color, consider high-acid applesauce. Apples with higher sugar and higher acid content will have a more balanced tart taste. These apples are perfect for hard cider or tart, fresh iced cider.
Tannins are compounds found in the skin and flesh of apples. These tannins give your cider a bitter taste and drying sensation in your mouth. Finding an apple with the right balance of tannins is the key to great apple cider.
Too much apple cider in tannins will make it difficult to drink. However, some tannins add to that classic slightly bitter flavor that’s beloved in hard cider.
As you can see, the three factors combined with each other leave a lot of room for experimentation. Ciders fall into several general categories based on acidity and tannins: bittersweet, sweet, bitter sharp, and sharp/sharp-sweet.
Best Cider Apple Varieties for Bittersweet Cider
Bittersweets are low in acid and high in tannins and sugar. The bittersweet cider apple is not as tart as other cider apples and is dry in taste. These are some of the best applesauce for bittersweet apple cider.
Dabinett Apple: This is an excellent bittersweet cider apple Dabinett for your cider. This apple is known for being very easy to grow and producing a high-quality juice that is perfect for hard cider. Not only that, but the tannins found in Dabinette are similar to those found in wine grapes. Dabinett apple trees are very resistant to apple scab and canker.
Yarrington Mill: Another classic bittersweet apple is Yarlington Mill. Few varieties are as round in flavor as Yarlington Mill. This variety is one of the few cider apples that can make a good hard cider on its own rather than mixed with other varieties. Yarlington Mill apple cider makes a smooth and easy-to-drink bittersweet cider.
Other types of good hard cider apples you will find include Somerset Redstreak, Harry Master Jersey, and Chisel Jersey.
Best Cider Apples for Sweet Cider
As the name suggests, sweet cider apples are high in sugar, low in acid, and low in tannins. Many of these varieties are already common in your kitchen. Sweet cider produces a very sweet-like beverage that is perfect for adding to hot, spiced cider or apple cider cocktails.
- Gala: The Gala apple beat Red Delicious in 2018 to be the most popular apple. Crisp and mildly sweet, Gala is perfect for making sweet, mellow cider. Its mild flavor makes it perfect for combining more strongly flavored apples like Granny Smith and Arkansas Black.
- Honeycrisp: Another favorite of sweet cider apples is Honeycrisp. As you might guess, it’s crisp, perfectly tart flesh makes for a deliciously sweet cider. First produced by the University of Minnesota, it was named the state fruit of Minnesota in 2006. You can try making this spiced Honeycrisp cider drink mixed with rum.
- Roxbury Russet: You may not have heard of Roxbury Russet, but this variety is one of the best cider applesauce for old-fashioned sweet cider.
It is generally recognized by North Americans as the oldest variety of apples that originated. It has that classic sweet-tart apple flavor you’ll love in a spicy hot cider. Another plus for Roxbury russets is that they are resistant to diseases such as apple scab, fire blight, and cedar apple rust.
Other good apples to try if you have a sweet cider include Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Jonagold.
Best Cider Apples for Bittersharp Cider
Bitter-spiked cider apples are high in both acid and tannins. Bitter cider apple varieties can make delicious hard cider if they are high enough in sugar. It is important to choose an apple that is aromatic and well-rounded in flavor so that the bitter and acidic flavor does not overpower the cider.
- Kingston Black: Kingston Black is a great apple cider for a balanced bitter-tasting cider. This makes you one of the best single-variety ciders of heirloom apples, an English variety in origin. Although it can be difficult to grow, Kingston Black makes a fragrant cider that’s hard to match.
- Porter Perfection: If you’re looking for a cider apple variety that’s the perfect balance of bitter and tart, then Porter Perfection should be high on your list. Porter’s Perfection often produces twins and triplets, meaning that two or three apples may fuse together while growing together. Although it is high in acid and tannins, Porter’s Perfection has a balanced apple flavor that will add complexity to the cider.
Other good bitter-sharp cider apples include foxwolves and Virginia (Heave’s) crab.
Best Cider Apples for Sharp/Sharp-Sweet Cider
Want cider apples that are very tart but also have low tannin levels? Sharp cider apple varieties are just the thing. These varieties of such apples produce acidic cider without the dry sensations caused by tannins.
- Granny Smith: An instant hit for sharp/sharp-sweet cider is Granny Smith. Known for its tart flesh and lime green skin, Granny Smith apples make the perfect tart cider. Granny Smith apples were first grown in Australia, where they were discovered by Maria Ann “Granny” Smith. It has excellent shelf life and stores well. Granny Smiths are also good for eating fresh and for baking/baking in pies and cakes.
- Macintosh: The McIntosh apple is a hardy, reliable apple that is popular in the US and Canada. Its refreshingly acidic juice makes excellent cider. However, apples are also sweetened with a classic apple juice flavor. The Macintosh is the perfect cider apple for a drink that will be a hit with both kids and adults. This flavor complexity is perfect for adding to a cider cocktail and tastes just like apple juice.
- Newtown Pippin: The Newtown Pippin is versatile, good for fresh eating, cooking, and juicing. This apple variety is also great for cider, especially hard cider. It is picked very late in the season (around the end of October), and it winters very well.
Other good sharp/sharp-sweet cider apple varieties include Cortland, Orange Pippin, and Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, Aesopus Spitzenberg.
Which apple should you use for hard cider?
Hard cider apple variety is difficult to rank because hard cider is generally a mix of different varieties. However, hard cider apples always have a medium to high sugar content (brix) and have a balanced tart and bitter taste. Some of the apple varieties mentioned above that make good hard cider are:
- Roxbury Russet makes a sweet and strong hard cider.
- The Newtown Pippin is a good hard cider apple for a tart and sweet hard cider refreshment.
- This Kingston Black classic is great for a bitter-pungent cider you don’t need to mix with another variety.
- Porter’s Perfection is acidic and tannic but sweet enough for a refreshing hard cider.
- Winesap is a sweet and tangy variety that makes a fine and versatile hard cider.
How to Use Apple Cider?
The main difference between apple cider and apple juice is that cider is raw apple juice that has not been filtered or pasteurized. This means that cider is a more natural option, but it’s also important to use it quickly or freeze it. Add some cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to make spiced apple cider.
Apple cider cocktails are a hit at fall dinner parties. Add some bourbon, rum, and spices of choice for a twist on the classic. Bake apples in cider and add your choice of nuts and spices for the perfect apple dessert.
Check out this apple cider smoothie. With creamy yogurt and maple syrup for sweetness, you’ll fall in love with this creative cider recipe. Apple Cider Waffles, Anyone? You’ll never eat waffles the same way again after trying this cidery twist on your favorite breakfast.
You can do the same with apple cider pancakes. Freeze cider in these juice pouches for a grab-and-go drink. Cider is a must-have in any home. The wide range of tastes and smells makes for endless options to discover. The next time you crave a refreshing glass of cider, try the apple varieties mentioned above to make your new favorite drink.