Book Review #3, CIDER – Hard and Sweet – History, Traditions and Making Your Own

Part three of four of interesting notes from cider-related books I obtained from my local library.  Here are links to part 1 and part 2.  This time around is CIDER – Hard and Sweet – History, Traditions and Making Your Own (Ben Watson, 2nd edition, published in 2009).  The first edition was published in 1999.  There is now however a 3rd edition (published 2013), paperback available for $11.43 on Amazon.  Overall I enjoyed this book more than Cider – Making, Using, & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider.  However, my favorite of the four cider books is yet to come!  (but is quite different than these first three)

cider hard and sweet


The History of Cider
Roman history
Western Europe

Apple Varieties for Cider
Sex and the Single Apple
Basic Types of Apples
Keeping Things in Proportion
Finding Your Cider Apples

Sweet Cider: From Tree to Juice
In Defense of Real Cider
How Safe Is Real Cider?
A Glass a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Making Your Own Sweet Cider
Harvesting the Fruit
Support Your Local Cidermaker
Sweating the Apples
Milling the Fruit
Pressing the Juice
Apple Juice
Traditional Cidermaking Photo Series

Hard Cider: From Juice to Bottle
Cidermaking 101
Basic Equipment (fermentation vessels, other fermentation equipment, measuring tools, racking and bottling equipment, cleaning and sanitizing equipment, miscellaneous items)
The Juice Before Fermentation (Sugars, Specific Gravity, and Potential Alcohol; Acids; Tannins; Yeast Nutrients and Pectic Enzymes; Sulfur Dioxide; Common Cider Disorders)
Fermentation (Yeasts, Wild and Domesticated; Starting a Yeast Culture; Some Commercial Yeast Strains Used for Cidermaking; Primary Fermentation)
Maturation and Bottling

Cider Styles and Traditions
The Influence of Soils and Climate
Regional Ciders (Spain, France, United Kingdom)
Basic Cider Styles (Draft Cider, Farmhouse or Farm Cider, French Cider, Sparkling Cider, Cyser, Apple Wine, New England-Style Cider, Specialty Ciders)
Apple Wine

Tasting and Evaluating Cider
Organizing a Cider Tasting
Collecting Ciders for Your Tasting
Props and Procedures
Evaluating Cider
Sample Cider-Tasting Score Sheet
Sample Cider-Tasting Results
Common Cider-Tasting Terms

Perry, or Pear Cider
A Short History of Perry
Making Your Own Perry
English Perry Pears Grown in North America

Stronger Waters: Cider Vinegar and Spirits
Apple Brandy (Calvados)
Ice Cider
Cider Vinegar

Cooking with Cider
Cider in American Cooking (Boiled Cider, Cider Syrup, Cider Jelly)
Using Cider in Recipes
Recipes (Old-Fashioned Apple Butter, Hot Mulled Cider, Cider Wassail Bowl, Pork Chops Braised in Hard Cider, Chicken Breasts Vallée d’Auge, Crème Fraîche, Apple Cider Marinade, Fish Poached in Cider, Onion Cider Relish, Red Cabbage Braised in Cider, Harvest Stuffed Squash, Pears Poached in Cider, Caramel Apple Gelato, Lost Nation Cider Pie, Tarte aux Pommes – Apple Tart, Pâte Brisée, Boiled Cider Apple Crisp, Pears Preserved in Calvados)

Cidermaking: Beyond the Basics
Scaling Up
Measuring Instruments
Traditional Sparkling Cider
Fermentation Vessels and Supplies
Fermenting and Aging in Oak Barrels
Kegging, Filtration, and Bottling Equipment
Keeping Things Sweet (Keeving; Cold Shocking, Filtering, and Stabilizing Cider)
In-Bottle Pasteurization
A Final Thought

What I Found Interesting:


  • Only a few species of small wild apples are native to North America (crabapples).  The first apples as we know them were brought by colonists from England and Western Europe, as early as 1623.
  • The American folk hero Johnny Appleseed (real name John Chapman) became a symbol of the apple’s spread as it followed Western settlement in the years after the Revolutionary War.  He operated an extensive frontier nursery In Pennsylvania, and traveled planting apple seeds and selling seedling trees to settlers.
  • By 1767 in Massachusetts more than 35 gallons of cider per person per year was consumed.  Cider was even a common unit of exchange.
  • By 1775 one out of every ten farms in New England owned and operated its own cider mill.  Most early settlers preferred not to drink the local water, which could be unpalatable or even polluted.
  • The first apple trees came to Washington state around 1848.  By 2000, Washington produced half of the U.S. apple crop (5% of the world crop).
  • Cider production had already dropped (due to decreased consumption) prior to Prohibition, from 55 million gallons in 1899 to 13 million gallons in 1919.
  • China is the world’s largest apple growing nation.  [which is probably why we hear of some cidermakers unfortunately using cheap Chinese imported apple juice concentrate in cider]

Cider Apple Varieties

  • Most apples benefit from being cross-pollinated by another tree of a separate variety.
  • A good fresh cider requires sweetness and body, sprightliness and aroma, and very few if any single apple varieties possess all of these qualities.
  • True cider apples are mainly bitter-tasting varieties that are used in making the classic hard ciders of Northwest Europe and England.  The bitterness and astringency of those apples come from the tannins that are present in both the skin and flesh of the fruit.
  • Apples vary wildly in sugar content from around 6% to nearly 25% (Wickson, a small high-sugar and high-acid variety from intentionally crossing the Newtown Pippin and Esopus Spitzenburg).
  • Apples of the same variety may vary considerably in sweetness during different growing seasons and regions.
  • Apples vary wildly in acid content, from 0.1% to 1.3%.


  • Sweet cider naturally contains approximately 15% sucrose, 74% fructose, and 11% glucose.
  • Tannins give a hard cider body and a dry finish, and help clarify (fine) the cider making it less hazy and more brilliant.
  • The complex bouquet of a hard cider is partly due to the aromatic varieties of apples used in the blend, but also partly due to the fragrant compounds produced as a result of yeast fermentation.

Cider Styles and Traditions

  • An important contributor to the character of any cider is something the French call terroir, a term referring to the place where the fruit is grown (soil composition, climate, microclimate, etc).
  • Two relatively unknown types of cider in the U.S. are German Apfelwein (8% of the world’s cider) and cider from South Africa (14% of the world’s cider, second only to the UK).
  • The greatest, oldest, and most highly regarded cidermaking areas of Europe are England’s West Country, Normandy and Brittany in France, and Asturias and the Basque region of Spain.
  • French cider is classified as Cidre Doux (up to 3% ABV), Demi-Sec (3-5% ABV), and Cidre Brut (over 5% ABV), and is 9% of the cider produced worldwide.
  • Draft cider is the most common variety in America, and most often sold in six-packs.  It is usually made of juice from surplus dessert apples, fermented to dryness, filtered, cut with carbonated water and/or apple juice to 5-6% ABV, and sulfited before bottling.  It is sweet to semi-sweet and should be drunk very cold.
  • Farmhouse or farm cider is traditional, “real” cider, or English dry cider.  It is usually still, dry, fully fermented to 5%+ ABV, and may have sweeteners added.
  • French cider of cidre doux relies on a process known as keeving, in which pectins and nitrogenous yeast nutrients are precipitated out of the cider, then clarified juice is siphoned into another container to begin a long slow period of fermentation  It has some residual sweetness and is only 2-4% ABV.
  • Sparkling cider is carbonated in some way, either by natural carbonation (secondary fermentation with a small amount of sugar), the French “closed cuvee” champagne method, or force/artificial carbonation.
  • The main difference between sparkling and effervescent ciders is the clarify and brilliance of the former, from removal of spent yeasts and other residues.
  • Apple wine is produced when sugar is added to raise the specific gravity high enough to obtain a 10-12% ABV product.  Otherwise there is little or no difference from hard cider.

2 thoughts on “Book Review #3, CIDER – Hard and Sweet – History, Traditions and Making Your Own

    • Eric: Thanks for the recommendation! The library only had the 2nd edition. I thought I’d check out everything they had to help me decide what I needed to buy. So far I have World’s Best Ciders and Apples to Cider. I’m just starting the second one (a gift from Farnum Hill cider). Those two books that just came out (by Jeff Smith and Jeff Alworth) look interesting too. Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s