Today we usually think of apple cider as a wholesome children’s drink, but for most of the past thousand years, cider often contained as much alcohol as beer. Thanks to wild yeast present in the air, the natural sugar in apple juice begins to ferment (turn to alcohol) within a few days after the juice is pressed from the apples and it will continue to ferment until something (such as cold temperature) is introduced to stop the process. Before the days of widespread refrigeration, sweet or non-alcoholic apple cider had a very short shelf life. But hard cider would last long enough to bottle and store for a year or more.
Evidence suggests that the English were turning the juice of crab apples sweetened with honey into intoxicating beverages even before the Norman conquerors brought over sweeter apple varieties from France and forced the natives to grow them. (more…)