Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Fall: The in-cider scoop

During the horrific pumpkin shortage of 2009, I was in a boutique deli in Scotland serving American students their coveted tins of Libby's. It was all a bit alien to me.

We also sold other unique US produce, such as Marshmallow Fluff and Karo corn syrup. Americans flocked to us, just like I make a bee-line for the rows of HP Sauce and boxes of Tetley tea in US supermarkets now.

One cold day an American girl came to me and asked if we had any cider. We didn't, I explained, as we didn't have a license to sell booze. In an attempt to be helpful I suggested she try the local bottle shop (AKA liquor store in US-speak).

She looked at me like I'd been hit on the head by Newton's apple and wasn't thinking quite right. "Uh, it's not alcoholic…" she explained. I just apologized and said I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. If it wasn't an oversize bottle of Strongbow, then what did she want?

In the UK, cider is a sweet alcoholic apple drink. The cheap stuff is sometimes made from onions and is favored by young teens drinking illegally in bus shelters. Cider has experienced an image-boost in recent years though. Trendy brands brought out cool flavors:  Summer fruits, elderflower, even toffee apple, or a light pear. Craft ciders began to adorn bar shelves and supermarkets.

Scrumptious scrumpy and perry is plenty available all over the UK now. The Cornish stuff, Healy's Cornish Cyder, packs a hearty punch. Their scrumpy is particularly strong, a heady 7.4% vol, which is more than most European beers.

But ask for cider here in North America and you'll get… apple juice. Cloudy apple juice. With a hint of spice. And no alcohol.

It's partly a hangover (sorry) from the colonialists bringing apple seeds over the ocean to continue their own (hard and soft) cider habits. Prohibition killed hard cider for a while so this stuff became the fruity Fall refreshment of choice.

But call it 'apple juice' and you'll get withering looks from locals. This is another of these huge US Fall trends that I'm just learning. It's only available in the Fall months, and my husband drinks it by the gallon. When it first arrived at the local supermarket it sold out in days. My husband fretted that he wouldn't be able to get his favorite local brand and that Fall would be ruined.

Luckily though we've been well-stocked with this (soft) spiced apple cider stuff since then. I'm not hugely taken with it, but that's okay, because there are some delicious alternatives…

13 comments:

  1. It is funny that you write this. I have become a huge (hard) cider fan and like trying different brands. Most of the best stuff comes from UK, but it is always pricey here and so much cheaper in England. I wish our normal 'cider' here was alcoholic and that we had kept making it, so it would be cheaper. Oh well! :)

    ~Ashley
    chashh.blogspot.com

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    1. I love Woodchuck (hard) cider from Vermont at the moment. The Fall one tastes like campfire. Mmmmm.

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  2. Oh, I can just smell it & taste it. Put it in a crockpot to get warm with some spices and fruit slices... heaven on a cold day! I'm so jealous!! Scrumpy is okay, but just not the same.

    xoxo
    Selena

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    Replies
    1. Right, I have to try this. If it's anything like mulled wine I can definitely get behind this.

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  3. Replies
    1. See maybe this is where I've been going wrong, but I've only tried it cold out of the fridge, the way my husband drinks it. The hot spicy mix sounds more like my cup of tea, or er, cider.

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  4. I love apple drinks :)
    awesome post!

    http://bubblemylicorice.blogspot.com/

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  5. There is just something about it that makes it way better than regular apple juice. I love cider, but only in small quantities, since it is so sweet. What I enjoy even more is adding cider to recipes (like apple cider donuts.) I also like hard cider. Woodchuck is definitely one of the best.

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    1. I've been more about the pumpkin this year, and I've yet to try an apple cider donut. I think I'm missing out here!

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  6. I'm all about hard cider at any time of year, but the non-alcoholic version -- the kind I scarf up in grocery stores and farmers' markets -- is great, too! And yeah, I guess it is just spiced apple juice, really. But absolutely delicious apple juice. :)

    Just stumbled across your blog and am loving it! I'm a bit of an anglophile, actually, and typically read sites penned by Americans living in London, etc. It's really fun to get a glimpse at life from the other perspective. :)

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment! Yes, I've seen quite a few blogs of expat going the other way, but there are a few of us who have hopped over to the New World too ;)

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