WOOSTER, Ohio - Which tastes better: pasteurized or fresh-pressed cider? According to a series of Ohio State University consumer surveys, it's a split decision.
That's promising news for Ohio State researchers who have been working to make cider safer to drink while maintaining its taste quality.
"Half of the consumers surveyed preferred the pasteurized cider because they said it tasted sweet and mellow. Half liked the fresh-pressed cider because it had a tart, fresher taste to it. I suppose it just all depends on what the palate likes," said fruit specialist Joe Scheerens, who works at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio.
Scheerens and other Ohio State researchers, like horticulturist Diane Miller, conducted cider taste tests on consumers over a three-year period to determine how well pasteurized cider held up to consumer's expectations of what a good cider should taste like. Pasteurization, the process of heating a product to a certain temperature to render bacteria harmless, is becoming a more common sanitation practice in juice production because it kills such food-borne pathogens as E. coli. But research has shown that pasteurization changes the flavor of foods, which may affect their success on the market.
"Data shows that pasteurization does change the quality of cider, but the difference is so slight that it doesn't seem to change the consumer's acceptability of the product," said Scheerens. "What is physically happening we don't know yet, but we hope to find that out this summer in future studies." Searching for that perfect cider will continue with another taste test at the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress and Ohio Roadside Marketing Conference, Feb. 6-8 in Toledo, Ohio. A consumer panel of judges will sample 19 cider entries from cider processors across Ohio and vote on various characteristics, such as taste and color. In addition, the cider will be analyzed for bacteria and mold counts and its overall chemical content.
"The information provided is meant to educate producers about how consumers perceive their product, its relative safety and its physical and chemical characteristics," said Scheerens. "It's a way of maintaining and improving the quality of the product." According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio ranks 10th in the nation in cider production, producing over 10 million gallons per year. Cider production ranks second economically in the state among fruit commodities at roughly $25 million, behind fresh apples, which are estimated at $30 million. Of the three million bushels of apples grown annually in Ohio, up to 40% (1.2 million bushels) are used in cider production with a retail value estimated at $15 million. Additionally, apples from out-of-state are imported annually to Ohio for cider production with an estimated value of $10 million.
The Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress and Ohio Roadside Marketing Conference is designed to provide fruit and vegetable growers the latest in research information, food safety and labor regulations, and economic opportunities. The conference is sponsored by Ohio State University, Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association, Ohio Fruit Growers Society, and the Direct Agricultural Marketing Association of Ohio. For more information on the conference contact the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers office at (614) 249-2424, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to http://www.ohiofruit.org or http://www.ohiovegetables.org.