After years of enjoying homemade apple cider among themselves, several Summerland orchardists are now marketing their product commercially.
Tom Kinvig of Summerland Heritage Cider Company said he and some fellow orchardists have been making cider together for 10 to 15 years, gathering for a glass every Tuesday.
At the time, Kinvig used a cider recipe he had found as a way to use some of the apples from his orchard.
Over time, as he and the other fruit growers continued their Tuesday meetings, they looked at ways to make a better apple cider.
“It wasn’t always the best stuff,” said cider maker Bob Thompson. “We thought there had to be a better way.”
Four or five years ago, Thompson took a course in cider making in Washington State.
The orchardists also started growing apple varieties designed for cider.
These varieties, including Michelin, Kingston, Black and others, are not grown for eating. Instead, they are European varieties, some of them more than 150 years old.
“The old way of doing things is still the best way of doing things,” Thompson said.
While it is possible to make cider from any apple variety, he believes the quality of his cider is superior because of the apples used.
“We think we make a cider unlike anything else in the valley,” he said. “It’s a far more complex product than you can get from Galas and Golden Delicious and Macintosh.”
The apples have a bittersweet and bittersharp taste and contain a high tannin level.
At present, they have planted a little more than one hectare in cider apples. Much of this land is not yet in production.
Thompson said the cider, with 7.7 per cent alcohol, is not just fermented apple juice. Instead, it is closer to wine and the cider company operates under a winery license.
“We want to reinvent cider in this part of the country,” Thompson said. “We want to give people what the apple gives to us.”
While cider production is not yet common in the Okanagan, it is growing in Washington and Oregon.
The Summerland Heritage Cider Company will soon have a website in place at summerlandcider.com. The company also has a page on Facebook.com.