CIDER --Sweet or Hard?: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Sep 24, 1998
Scientist: John Bucklyn

CIDER --Sweet or Hard?

CIDER --Sweet or Hard?
The only thing separating sweet apple juice from alcoholic cider is a little time.

"Being ground up, let your bruised apples continue twenty-four hours before pressing: 'twill give your Cider the more Amber-bright color, and hinder its over-fermenting." Some advice on cider-making from the 17th century. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

We're listening to the sounds of a traditional apple cider mill in Old Mystic, Connecticut. Apples roll down a long wooden chute and are then crushed to extract the liquid. The juice that's produced is either sold immediately as sweet apple cider, or preserved in wooden barrels where it ferments, transforming it into what's called hard cider -- a tangy alcoholic drink that was once as popular as beer.

John Bucklyn is the former owner of B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill.

"I would say cider making goes back to the first colonists that came here...Just about everybody made cider in those days. It was a very, very popular drink...Everybody put away a barrel of cider for the wintertime. Even people who belonged to temperance union, they felt that having a pitcher of cider, that wasn't considered bad; that was sort of nature's product. You could do that. Hard cider was a very, very popular drink. It was equal to beer up until the time of prohibition. And then after repeal, when prohibition ended, peoples' tastes had changed. Cider sort of went into a little decline after that."

During prohibition, hard cider was one of the most difficult beverages to control -- the only thing separating it from sweet apple cider was time.

"The basic process is the same. First you crush the apple, then you have to press the juice out. And if it's going to [be made] for sweet cider, then it's sold immediately. And if it's going to be made into hard cider then it's put aside to age."

Additional funding for Pulse of the Planet has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.