Hard cider is not a modern invention, but in recent decades it has seen a rise in popularity. Cider’s nutritional qualities can be debated, but what is the sodium content in this tasty sparkling drink?
What is hard cider?
Hard cider is is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented apple juice, with many flavor enhancing additives. The process of making cider begins with pressing apples. The resulting juice (treated and clarified if necessary) goes through fermentation, very similar to wine making. The sugar naturally present in the juice is converted into ethanol by special yeasts. When the desired dryness is achieved, the product is bottled. On occasion additional sugar is added for taste and clarity. The alcohol levels in ciders usually is around 3 - 8%, but there are siders as strong as 12%.
Brief history of cider
It is believed that the earliest records of cidermaking can be found in Strabo (64 or 62 BCE – 24 AD) and Pliny the Elder (23 or 24 AD – 79 AD), however these accounts are vague. Eduardo Coto claims that the first explicit mention of cider can be found in a dated will, written in northern Spain in 803. This documents describes certain apple orchards as set aside specifically for making cider. This 9th century date indicates that the cidermaking was a very well established industry which demanded highly specialised ingredients.
After the Norman envasion of England in 1066, cidermaking was brought to England and flourished there ever since. While grapes were not available in many regions of Europe, apples could be found in a wide range of climates. This great ability of apple trees to adapt to new environments is rooted in their genetics. Each apple seed contains 57,000 genes, almost twice the number of genes in a human DNA. Every one of those seeds has the ability to grow into a tree with distinct characteristics, quite different from the parent tree. However, the consistencey in taste of apples can be achieved through grafting, which has been practiced for millennia.
In the Middle ages, cidermaking was local in nature. In contrast, wine was often traded from region to region. Cider, on the other hand was subject to local tastes, customs and varieties of fruit present. In many areas, hard cider was the main source of alcohol.
Cider was very prominent in North America as well, but its popularity steadily declined by the mid-19th century. Other means of making alcohol became prevalent. Urban dwellers, often newly arrived immigrants from Europe, often prefered beer. Shipping cider was difficult which prevented the rise of cider tycoons. At the same time, commercial orchards earned more money from selling fresh fruit, as opposed to cheap low quality apples suitable for cider. It apparently became economically feasable to make sure that there is not much left on the “bottom of the barrel,” i.e. refuse only to be used for cider.
It may be difficult to believe, but in 1991 there were 10 (ten) cideries in the United States. In 2009, their number rose to over a hundred. But it was the next decade that really put cidermaking on the map in America. The popularity of cider coincided with the meteoric rise of micro-breweries. There are 15,000 varieties of apples in North America and almost all of them are used for cidermaking,. This craft is currently the domain of a small enterpreneur, trying to make it big. Not all will survive, but the renewed love for cider is here to stay.
In the United Kingdom, cider has alaways remained popular. It is sometimes considered an entry level alcoholic beverage for the younger population (drinking age is typucally lower in Europe).
Read more: American Cider: A Modern Guide to a Historic Beverage by Dan Pucci, Craig Cavallo.
What’s the sodium amount in hard cider?
If you read the brief description of how cider is made, you may have noticed that there is no salt added to the beverage at any stage. Sugar, perhaps. But never salt. As a result, cider can be considered a low-sodium drink. Of course, small amounts of sodium are present in apples and other ingredients. The actual amount of salt in every batch is different (all ciders are different in dryness, clarity, flavorings and so on). You will likely see the levels between 2 and 6 mg per serving (100g) of cider. In fact, cidermakers try to avoid even small amounts of sodium in their product, because salt causes cider to taste harsh.
Are there other health concerns associated with cider drinking?
Hard cider contains alcohol, so it’s subject to all warnings that pertain. It should be consumed in moderation. Other than that, it is the amount of sugar in some commercially available ciders that may be alarming. Dry ciders are the way to go.