If you think you’re busy, you should talk to Thomas Wilson and Nicole Judge during the autumn season.
This husband and wife team of Spirit Tree Estate Cidery certainly has their hands full with the twenty varieties of apples they tend to and cultivate into delicious hard and sweet cider. They also have an apple of their eye in the form of an active toddler, and (and?) they bake high-end products at their Caledon located cidery - just a stone’s throw from Toronto (well, a big stone).
Speaking with them, you certainly get the hint of cosmopolitan, well-educated people and it’s not surprising: Thomas is educated in history and Nicole is a veterinarian (so no animals were harmed in the making of this product).
Our palates thank them for making career switches and helping us to savour our apple a day in the most delicious forms possible. Here are the Coles notes of our conversation, with four fascinating facts (we’re pretty sure the modern version of Coles notes is known as the Internet).
You Can Huff and Puff and Blow their House Down.
We’re hoping the big bad wolf stays away, because their production facility was made using straw bales to fill the post and beam construction. It’s the eco-friendly alternative, making this cider as green as it gets.
They have geothermal heating and cooling and built a stone oven for their popular pizza Fridays. One of their drool-worthy pizza flavours has pistachios, mozzarella and goat cheese. Thank goodness they have a Facebook page because that deserves a “like” with a capital L.
Cider is the New Juice Box.
When asked if their son inherited their cider sensitive palates, Nicole informed us that cider is a great beverage to give a young toddler who has moved away from milk. It’s a pure and natural product without additives. “It’s basically like drinking a crushed apple,” she says. People have taken notice, as they’ve won the 2011 Sweet Cider Competition. Luckiest. Kid. Ever.
If you don’t believe us, please note that this kid is so used to wood-fired pizza that he couldn’t stomach a standard pizza night elsewhere. We detect a future food critic in the making.
Molson, You Don't Get It.
Although the recent surge in popularity has led many of the big names to start producing a gluten-free alternative to beer, Thomas claims it’s not the same. Hard apple cider is nothing new. In fact, as long as there were apples, there were people fermenting them for cider. Thomas and Nicole use ye olde recipe by sticking with minimal processing and wild yeasts.
Martha Stewart, Watch Out.
You could go to France for delectable pastry, or San Fran for a thin crust pizza. Or you could come to the cidery. Thomas and Nicole wanted to do the best work possible, so they learned from the best. They went to George Brown to start their culinary education, followed by Cordon Bleu – both in Ottawa and Paris. They learned how to perfect wood fired pizza in San Francisco. They learned how to make their cider in England. Going to Caledon provides the gastronomic benefit of a Eurorail pass.
Ontarians rejoice – their hard cider is available in the LCBO. Non-Ontarians (try saying that five times fast) might want to consider making the trip for February during family day weekend for the Wassailing Festival where you can help to scare away the evil spirits that could lead to bad cider. The Orange Peel Morris dancers provide traditional Wassailing music and dance. They lead the procession through the orchard to bless the trees and scare away the evil spirits.
Consider it apple obsession – this fruit has done a lot for you.
Courtney Sunday is a writer, yoga teacher, Pilates instructor, spinning instructor and Thai massage practitioner. She teaches corporations in Toronto the fine art of breathing deeply, and travels too much for her own good. She likes to cook meals from scratch using ingredients from her garden, and would mill her own flour and make her own butter if she had more hours in the day. You can find out more about her at www.courtneysunday.com.