How about 55 BC as the start date to a tradition we still carry on today! It is quite possible that the fragrant drink we imbibe toady has been enjoyed in some form since the beginning of it all. This makes sense, of course, if the fruit has been around since the start, ancient civilizations would have found a way to preserve it. Now just to be clear here, when we talk about apple cider in the historic context we are talking about a beverage containing the juice of cooked apples which has undergone a fermentation process and/or has been mixed with fermented juices. This is not be confused with the sweet apple cider that I serve today at family gathering which lacks the fermentation process and is served hot with spices. In any event the base is still the same – pressed or cooked apples; one fermented and the other mixed with spices to create a fragrant brew.
Traditionally apple cider, sweet or hard, was made from a blend of tart, usually inedible, apples from a variety of different trees. The variety of apples in the blend dates back to the beginning of cider production when apple orchards were planted by seed and not grown from grafted trees. Those familiar with apple tree production will understand the distinction. Apples and their trees are far more complex genetically than you and I; when we reproduce we produce children similar to ourselves. Plant a simple apple seed, however, and it will produce its own unique apple and not one that is similar to the parent tree. Plant two seeds from the same tree and each seed will produce a tree with vastly different fruits, all apples, but uniquely different from each other. Having this at its core (quite literally) apple ciders were created with a blend of a variety of tart apples, often rejected for other purposes.
The sweet apple cider most familiar in North America is a relatively new squeeze on tradition. While apple cider of ancient traditions, the fermented variety referred to in North America as “hard apple cider”, continues to be enjoyed worldwide, the unfermented and unfiltered sweet apple cider has American roots. It is likely that when the first Puritan settlers came to America with their apple trees in tow they made their apple cider without the fermentation process in accordance with their religious beliefs. The tradition of sweet cider continued and today we have what is referred to as hot apple cider.
For as many years as apple cider has been around, there are a similar number of ways to make it. Some recipes start with fresh apples, press or boil the fruit for the juice and then add spices. Others prefer to start with a base of commercially prepared apple cider and gently warm it with special blends of spices. In a recent taste test in Toronto, President’s Choice Sweet Apple Cider was touted as the best blend of prepared cider compared to other ciders. Sweet apple cider can be found prepared in most coffee shops and with the addition of the inseparable cinnamon stick can also be conveniently enjoyed from prepackaged powdered form.
Here are some links to homemade apple cider.
- Homemade Apple Cider – One Ingredient Chef
- Homemade Slow Cooker Hot Apple Cider
- and Here is yet another and very colourful Homemade Slow Cooker Apple Cider
- Martha Stewart’s Version
- One from Betty Crocker
I prefer my cider quite simple: freshly pressed apple juice from our apple trees, simmered on low in a crockpot with cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and star anise. Whatever recipe you choose, turn the cider on to simmer, toss in a few spices, call some friends over and enjoy a relaxing evening.
Speaking of calling some friends over, we can see from the first Christmas that this was part of the story. While the pregnant Mary may not have had fresh made hot apple cider on her agenda when she headed over to her cousin Elizabeth’s for a visit, what did happen likely surprised them both! As Mary approached Elizabeth’s house, she may well have called out a greeting. When Elizabeth heard the greeting the baby she was carrying jumped in her belly. What a surprise! Her unborn baby recognized the child that Mary was carrying and was so excited that he leapt. The atmosphere was charged and Elizabeth began to speak a blessing over Mary and Mary responded with her own song magnifying the Lord. As we gather together with friends and family during this Christmas season may we too speak blessing over them and magnify our Savior.
What, you might say, do donuts have to do with apple cider? Well nothing actually. I just stumbled across these as I was out roaming and included them for fun; a surprise really, so if you are ambitious enough to dig out the fry pan and shortening, enjoy these yummy treats! Fresh is best. Merry Christmas from my hips to yours!