Cider’s comeback – made in Ontario

February 12, 2014

Many of us love nothing better than to bite into a crunchy, sweet Ontario apple. But it’s possible to get our apple fix in liquid form as well, such as with high quality Ontario sweet and hard apple ciders.

There are some that say Ontario and hard apple cider is a match made in heaven. The popularity of the traditional beverage is growing by leaps and bounds in the province, where the burgeoning craft cider industry is boosting farming, processing and tourism.

Although sweet Ontario cider has been a staple product for many Ontario apple growers and packers for years, new hard cideries have also been opening in our traditional apple growing regions. The local food movement has supported this growth as chefs and consumers seek out new ways to consumer Ontario-grown food products.

The numbers speak for themselves: Ontario has gone from as few as three cideries two years ago to 14 across the province in 2014. In 2013, the LCBO named one of their top ten summer drink choices and indicated that net cider sales had increased by a whopping 60.4 per cent in the last year.

Craft ciders are light and refreshing beverages made using traditional methods and their versatility makes it easy to pair them with almost any food. Alcohol rates range from approximately four to seven per cent, depending on the cider.

The three most common types of hard cider produced in Ontario are:

  • Sparkling cider, which varies widely in flavour depending on its age, when apples are pressed and what fermentation methods are used. It’s perfect on its own or paired with cheddar cheeses, pork chops, roasted vegetables or poultry.
  • Perry, a pear-based cider that is best served chilled or over ice and has a crisp, medium sweet flavour. It pairs well with chicken, fish, pulled pork or soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
  • Iced cider, which results through natural freezing in the winter (a bit like ice wine) and has an exceptionally sweet and rich flavour. It goes well with foods like cheesecake, bacon and strong or blue cheeses.

North American apple varieties most commonly used in cider production are McIntosh, Ida Red, Spy, Gala, Paula Red and Russet. Most of the newer apple varieties, such as Ambrosia and Honey Crisp, are much sweeter, making them ideal for eating but less well-suited to the more tart flavours needed for cider production.

A recently completed study by the George Morris Centre about cider’s potential in Ontario found that the industry has a solid and stable supply of good quality Ontario apples for their cider production.

“Cider is Ontario’s ideal industry: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism and it is green to boot. This study confirms the potential and we look forward to making Ontario the centre of cider excellence,” said Nick Sutcliffe, Chair of the Ontario Craft Cider Association, when the study was released.

If the Ontario cider industry achieves projected annual sales of $35 million by 2018, say study authors, it will generate $60 million in overall economic activity in the province, with a total added gross domestic product of $30 million and creation of over 200 new jobs by the industry and its suppliers.

A new hard cider competition will make its debut at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Niagara Falls later this month; more information is available at www.ofvc.ca.

Click here for a list of Ontario Craft Cider producers and where you can buy their delicious apple-inspired products: http://ontariocraftcider.com/our-members/.

Written by Lilian Schaer for Ontario Apple Growers.