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Ask a Foodie: What’s the Difference between Apple Juice and Cider?

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Is it juice or is it cider?

Q. I was in the juice aisle the other day and I noticed a lot of bottles, some marked apple juice and others market apple cider. I read a few labels, but I couldn’t figure out what the difference was between the two of them. Do you know?

— Pam

A. There is no difference between the products you are talking about. In the eyes of the labeling gods at the U.S. government, the words can be used interchangeably.

But there is a difference between apple cider and apple juice in the bigger picture.

Cider traditionally has referred to fruit juice that is natural, unprocessed and raw, which is why it can ferment into a liquor or what is known as “hard cider.” You sometimes find fresh cider in the refrigerator section. If it looks darker and murkier than you’re used to, it’s because cider is not filtered and it’s likely that it has not been pasteurized. If it is not pasteurized, it should say so on the label, again another government requirement.

According to a website from the state of Massachusetts, “Cider needs constant refrigeration because it is perishable. It will stay sweet and unfermented for up to two weeks. Cider can also be frozen, but be sure to pour off an inch or two from the container for expansion during freezing.”

Apple juice has been pasteurized and most likely filtered, the government site says.

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