Cider, mostly apple cider, has been in existence for a very long time. In our region, cider has been gaining ground in recent years and is now at a level of acceptance and enjoyment by many.
Although cider is produced using various different fruits, it is very much associated with apples, which is where the concept began. Apples made their way to North America through the British invasion (the original, in the 1600s, not the Beatles).
Surprisingly they are not native to the UK, instead originating in Kazakhstan. The Romans, enjoying the taste of the uniquely different fruit, brought them to Britain. Cider was a product enjoyed in the British Isles for many centuries, before it began to make its mark in North America.
North Durham has several cideries. One of the more well known is Two Blokes Cider, just north of Port Perry. The brainchild of the original two blokes, Matthew Somerville and Andy Paul, the business was recently purchased by the Old Flame Brewing Co., of Port Perry.
I know beer is made by brew masters and wine by vintners, but who makes cider, and how difficult is it? The person with the answers is the cider maker for Two Blokes, Jenna Boucher, who explained the process to me.
Born in Ottawa, Jenna had her heart set on becoming a pastry chef. A lover of the outdoors, she attended St. Bridget’s Summer Camp, since she was ten. She began working there as a councillor and found it extremely rewarding, not to mention a great deal of fun. The camp director saw Jenna’s potential and suggested she pursue a career in teaching. Thrilled with the idea, Jenna attended Algonquin College, and graduated with a degree in youth counselling.
She became immersed in the industry, working with troubled youths, helping to rehabilitate them in an effort to avoid a return to custody. From there she moved to the horrific area of assisting young teens, victimized by the sex traffic trade. Sadly, a girl she was closely working with died, and it took its toll on Jenna.
She decided to leave Ontario and head to either the American Southwest, or the mountains of Alberta. Having a cousin in Canmore made the decision easy. Jenna packed her bags and headed to the Rockies.
Jenna’s intention was to remain in her industry, and she joined a shelter for folks fleeing domestic violence. Finding the west more expensive than Ontario, she took on a part time position as a bartender at the Grizzly Paw Brewing Co., in Canmore, the third oldest craft brewery in Alberta. Her outgoing personality was immediately noticed by management, and Jenna was asked to organize a tour program and lead tours of the facility.
The position was great; however, her lack of knowledge in the industry was a drawback. On her days off, she began helping in the brewing side of the business, in order to learn. Surprisingly to herself, she became quite good at it.
Jenna wanted to advance, but the brewing industry at the time, was a very male dominated industry. She joined a program called Pink Boots, which support women and non-binary people, working in the fermented beverages and allied industries.
Jenna was offered a scholarship to Cicerone, (the beer equivalent to a sommelier), and after three successful years, moved to Banff and joined the Three Bears Brewery and restaurant.
Suffering from Celiac, Jenna found it impossible to drink beer, but desperately wanted to stay in the industry. She was offered a job with the Uncommon Cider Company in Calgary, as head of production. This position allowed her to further her knowledge of the industry, but concentrated on cider instead of beer.
The process of making cider is closer to the art of winemaking, than to the brewing of beer. To put it simply, cider is made from fermenting pressed apple juice, whereas beer is made from brewing malted barley and hops.
Due to the fruit used in making cider, most jobs in the industry in Alberta, are seasonal. Jenna set her sights on moving to B.C., Nova Scotia or Ontario, where the opportunities were much greater.
She contacted Two Blokes and was offered the position of cider maker, with the intent of staying until the fall, at which time she would move back west. When Old Flame purchased Two Blokes, production increased to year round, and Jenna was asked to stay.
“I had immediately fallen in love with Port Perry and the area, so to stay here was a fantastic opportunity.”
Being somewhat naive in the cider making process, I asked Jenna to explain it to me. “It all starts with apples, picked from the trees. After a few weeks of ripening they are ground and the juice is extracted.” I asked what the difference between apple juice and apple cider was and learned that apple juice is pasteurized.
The next step in the process is to ferment the juice, either naturally or with yeast, a process that can take up to six weeks. Various organic elements are added, and after approximately eight months, the cider is ready.
“The process is very long,” Jenna explained. “Planning far in advance is extremely important in making the operation work.”
Jenna loves the people of Port Perry, and has no plans of leaving. The cider she produces is available at the LCBO, as well as various restaurants in the area and of course, Two Blokes.
A lover of biking, horses, trivia, good food and pop punk music, Jenna Boucher is making very positive strides in a relatively new industry, which offers a fantastic future.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.