I just love apple cider. There are few better seasonal soft drinks than a lovely glass of mulled sweet cider at Christmas. Drop-in a cinnamon stick for flavor and it’s like drinking Christmas in a glass!
Because it’s made from fresh produce though, it’s only right to wonder just how long apple cider lasts. What happens when it goes bad? How do you tell when it has gone off?
In today’s article, I’ll answer each of these questions and show you how to make apple cider last longer, as well as some creative ways to use any excess cider you may have bought!
What is Apple Cider?
Apple cider (also known as sweet cider and soft cider) is popular in the United States and Canada. It’s an unfiltered, unsweetened non-alcoholic drink made from apples that first became popular after Prohibition in the 1920s. Like apple juice, it can be easily found in most grocery stores.
To make apple cider, the apples are washed then mashed along with the apple cores and other trimmings. The juice is then extracted from the apples by pressing the fruit mash. The finished product has an opaque caramel color. This is because it still contains apple particles, despite being filtered.
Cider is usually made in the Fall, following the apple harvest. Traditionally it is served during Halloween and Thanksgiving. A ‘mulled’ cider, made with apple juice and added orange peel, nutmeg and cloves, is often served warm during Christmas and New Year festivities.
Apple Cider vs Apple Juice vs Apple Cider Vinegar
As you’ll no doubt guess from their names, one thing that all of these products have in common is that they are made from apples. However, each is made using different methods. Though they’re all made from the same basic ingredient, these differences in production can have a big impact on how long each of them lasts. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between the three:
Cider is made from pulped apples that may or may not have been filtered to remove all the particles. It will start to ferment after one week, so needs to be consumed quickly and stored chilled in the refrigerator. Cider is nutritious as it contains the most polyphenol compounds – between two and four times more than apple juice. It has many health benefits and can promote a healthy heart.
Apple Juice is also made from pulped apples. The key difference is that once the juice has been extracted, it is carefully filtered to remove all pulp particles. The juice is then pasteurized and vacuum packed to prolong its shelf life.
Apple juice has much less nutritional value because of the many sugars and preservatives that are added during the manufacturing process. However, these preservatives mean that apple juice does last longer than cider.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is made from pressed apple juice that has then been fermented into natural sugar alcohol. Bacteria are added to the mixture which converts the alcohol into acetic acid. Does Apple Cider Vinegar go bad? The answer is that technically it never expires. Storing it in a cool, dark place helps to preserve its quality.
In the last ten years, ACV has seen increasing popularity as a health product. It has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that have seen it used to treat everything from wounds to sore throats to warts. Because apple cider vinegar is naturally acidic it can be used to restore the pH balance of a person’s skin and internal organs. It can help with weight loss by improving the body’s metabolism. It may also be helpful in lowering insulin and blood sugar levels in diabetics.
How Can You Tell if Cider has Gone Bad?
Apple Cider is a fresh product and to be enjoyed at its best, it should be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within five days. If it is kept for longer than this, the cider will start to ferment.
When fermentation has started to occur, there are three noticeable signs:
Color. When cider starts to ferment it changes color and becomes darker.
Foam. Once the fermentation process has begun, you’ll sometimes notice that your cider starts to develop a layer of foam.
Flavor. Because of fermentation, cider that has gone bad will develop a sharp, sour and slightly alcoholic taste.
The good news is that whilst it doesn’t taste nice, drinking cider that has ‘gone bad’ isn’t harmful to your health.
How Long does Apple Cider Last Unopened?
Unopened, cider will last for up to two weeks if properly stored. It is not ‘shelf stable’, meaning that storing it in the pantry or kitchen cabinet will not keep it in good condition. This is because the environment is too warm and can speed up the fermentation process.
Cider should be stored in the refrigerator as soon as you bring it home. For optimum storage, it is important that your refrigerator is at a temperature of 40ºF or lower.
If you’ve kept some cider in the refrigerator for longer than a couple of weeks, check whether it’s good by opening the container and pouring out a glass.
If you spot any of the tell-tale signs that it has gone bad -a darkened color or the presence of foam or sediment, you should toss it out as it is past its best.
How Long Does Open Cider Last?
Once opened, you’ll find apple cider will keep for five to seven days in your refrigerator.
If left out of the fridge, it will only last for a couple of days before it starts to go bad.
How To Make Apple Cider Last Longer
There are two things that you can do to make cider last longer. The first is to keep the container it’s stored in as airtight as possible. The reason why it’s important that air does not get into the container is that if it does, it can speed up the deterioration of the cider.
You should check that your refrigerator is working efficiently too – pop a thermometer on one of the shelves to double-check that the temperature is 40ºF or lower. Warmer temperatures lead to faster fermentation.
How Long Does Apple Cider Last in the Freezer?
A great way to preserve cider that you don’t need right now is to freeze it – which is easy to do. When frozen, apple cider can be kept for up to three months.
If you are freezing just a small quantity, it can be poured into an ice cube tray. If you have a larger quantity, pour it into a suitable container – making sure to leave plenty of headroom at the top ( experts reckon a head space of 10% of the height of the container is best). This is because the liquid will expand as it freezes.
How to Defrost Apple Cider
When you would like to use the frozen cider, remove the container from the freezer and defrost slowly overnight in your refrigerator. Once it has totally defrosted, stir well before drinking.
Whilst you can freeze any excess cider that you can’t use right now, why not get creative? It can be easily used in some really tasty recipes. Get adventurous with drinks and use it to create slushies, iced tea, fruit punch or even apple cider margaritas!
Excess cider can also be successfully used in a variety of sweet and savory recipes including cookies, apple crumbles and, if you fancy something more savory, delicious apple cider glazed chicken.