Fresh apple cider is a favorite in autumn as many apples reach their peak ripeness. But because it often isn’t processed, this crisp, fruity drink also has a short shelf life. So can you freeze apple cider to make it last longer?
I remember looking forward to the fall season as a kid because I knew that also meant apple cider season. And when the weather started to get colder, warm apple cider seemed to be the perfect drink.
Part of the reason why apple cider is so tasty is because it oftentimes doesn’t include preservatives or artificial ingredients. But that also means it can spoil quickly. Which begs the question: can you freeze apple cider?
Yes, it is possible to freeze apple cider and it can last in the freezer for several months. But there are some key steps to follow so it still tastes great when you’re ready to thaw it out.
In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to freeze apple cider, how to defrost it, and I’ll test whether you can freeze alcoholic hard cider.
What is apple cider?
Apple cider is a non-alcoholic beverage made by simply pressing the juice from fresh apples. Unlike apple juice, it doesn’t include added sugars or other sweeteners and it isn’t filtered. As a result, apple cider is usually cloudy and can range in flavor from tart to slightly sweet, depending on the type of apples used
The apple variety can also determine the cider’s color, which usually falls somewhere between golden brown to reddish brown. And cider comes in a variety of styles from cold to warm, and even sparkling.
In many cases, spices are infused into apple cider to help enhance the flavor. Common ones include cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. For the same reason, a cinnamon stick is often placed in a cup of warm or hot cider.
While most apple cider from the grocery store is pasteurized to help rid it of harmful bacteria, you can readily find unpasteurized cider, especially from independent producers or at farmers’ markets.
Difference between apple cider and hard cider
In the United States, apple cider refers to a non-alcoholic, unprocessed juice that’s pressed from apples to produce an opaque, golden-colored liquid.
Hard cider is also made from fruit, but yeast is added to induce fermentation, which turns the sugar in the juice into alcohol. While hard cider is most commonly made with apples, other fruits like pears, apricots, and plums can be used as well.
And other fruits can also be infused into hard apple ciders, which can affect flavor and sweetness levels.
Hard ciders can range from dry to sweet and from around 5% alcohol content by volume to around 8%-10% ABV in so-called imperial ciders.
In other countries, like the UK for example, apple cider is synonymous with alcoholic, hard cider.
How to freeze apple cider
So, back to non-alcoholic apple cider. You can freeze it using several methods and for a fairly long time without sacrificing its flavor. Here are a few different ways to do it.
Note: If you’re using homemade apple cider, be sure to cool your cider completely before freezing it.
Freezing apple cider in an airtight container
The best method to freeze apple cider is to use some sort of airtight, freezer-safe container. For best results, use a plastic, resealable tub or pyrex bowl.
1. Pour your cider into your container of choice. Leave a little room at the top for the cider to expand during freezing.
2. Seal the container tightly and add a date label.
3. Place it on a level surface in the freezer away from items like seafood whose odors can seep into the cider.
Freezing apple cider using ice cube trays
Ice cube trays are another great way to freeze apple cider. Simply fill the tray with the cider, then cover it. The best option is a plastic cover that fits snugly over the top of the tray. But you can use plastic wrap as well.
You simply want to create a barrier between the cider and the cold air so the cider stays fresh and doesn’t develop freezer burn or absorb any unwanted odors.
When you’re ready to use some of the cider, simply pop a few cubes into a glass and let it thaw out.
Freezing apple cider using silicone molds
Another easy way to freeze apple cider is to use silicone molds. The process is basically the same as that with ice cube trays. And you may find that it’s easier to pop out the frozen cider using molds.
As an added bonus, silicone molds come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you could use a leaf-shaped mold for example to create festive, fall-themed cider ice cubes.
⭐️ Tip: Freeze leftover apple cider in smaller portions rather than large batches. This will speed up the freezing process and allow you to thaw out only the amount you intend to use.
How long does apple cider last in the freezer?
Frozen apple cider can have a long shelf life — it can last up to several years. But for the best taste, it’s a good idea to consume cider within 1-3 months of freezing.
After that, it will still be safe to drink, but the quality of the cider can decline and it just may not be as flavorful.
How to defrost apple cider
Patience is a virtue when it comes to defrosting apple cider. The best way to do it is to simply transfer your container of frozen cider to the fridge and let it thaw out overnight. You may need to give it a good shake after you defrost it so it regains its original consistency.
If you used an ice cube tray, you can pop them out into a bowl and place that into the fridge, covered with some plastic wrap.
Once the cider is defrosted, you should drink it within 3 days.
As another option, you can thaw out frozen apple cider at room temperature. But you don’t want to leave it out for more than a couple of hours — and you’ll need to consume it right away — as it can spoil quickly.
Or you can thaw out apple cider in the microwave using the defrost setting. Zap it in 30-second to 1-minute intervals just until it’s liquefied. And like cider that’s been thawed at room temperature, it will need to be consumed soon afterward.
Does freezing affect the taste of apple cider?
If you use apple cider within 3 months of freezing it, you shouldn’t see a noticeable difference in its flavor.
But after several months, the cider will start to become blander and more muted. It can also form condensation if it wasn’t frozen properly. That can result in ice crystals that will melt into the cider and dilute it when it’s thawed out.
Apple cider vs apple juice
While both are made from fresh apples, cider is made by pressing the apples, but not filtering them or adding any artificial sweeteners. So you end up with a cloudy, tangy juice. It can be served cold or warm and if it’s unpasteurized, it must be kept refrigerated.
Apple juice is made by crushing and blending apples. Then the juice is filtered until it’s a clear golden color, and additional sugars are usually added to make it sweeter and less tart. Often water is also added to dilute the juice. You can store apple juice at room temperature until you open it because it’s pasteurized during the production process.
👉🏼 Related: 8 Best Apples for Juicing
Can you freeze hard cider?
In general, alcoholic beverages do not freeze well in most household freezers because they don’t get cold enough. But you actually can freeze lower-alcohol hard cider.
To prove the point, I experimented by making hard cider popsicles. The cider I used had an ABV of 5.5%, around the same level as many beers.
I simply poured the cider into some popsicle molds and put them in the freezer overnight. The result, shown below, was solid hard cider popsicles.
Now just because you can freeze hard cider doesn’t mean you would necessarily want to. After trying my popsicles, I did notice some of the original cider flavor had become muted, as did the carbonation. So it was basically a bit flat-tasting overall.
But you could always combine it with something more flavorful like fruit punch to make a tasty, alcoholic popsicle perfect for summer barbecue parties.
👉🏼 Related: Tropical Margarita Popsicles
If your apple cider is pasteurized, then you can store it in a cool, dark place like a pantry until you open it. If it’s unpasteurized or once you open the cider, you’ll need to store it in the refrigerator. Generally, once opened, cider will stay good for up to a week in the fridge. Store-bought cider is usually still fresh for a few days after its expiration date as long as it’s stored properly.
Once you freeze apple cider and thaw it out, it’s best to avoid refreezing it. Cider only lasts about a week after thawing out. Refreezing it may affect the overall taste and texture of the cider.
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