Category French

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery: Savour the Quality

Even if you are not a fan of cider, don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy a scenic drive to Spirit Tree Estate Cidery, an artisan cider mill gracing the Niagara Escarpment, in the picturesque hills of Caledon. While farm-fresh apples and carefully crafted cider are at the root of the Spirit Tree experience, there is much more to this story.

Of course, there are delicious sweet and hard ciders to sample in Spirit Tree’s tasting room or purchase in their farm store, as well as apples already-picked from the estate’s orchards.


I look forward to a glass of sweet apple cider in the fall, but I am a novice when it comes to hard ciders. To learn more about Spirit Tree Estate Cidery’s award-winning, artisanal ciders, click the Our Ciders tab and the Press tab on their website link at the end of this post.

What I find exceptional about Spirit Tree Estate Cidery is the attention to detail and high-quality standards that owners and founders Thomas Wilson and Nicole Judge have poured into their business, starting with their cider but apparent throughout their operations.


Nestled in the heart of their award-winning straw bale building is a specially designed wood-fired oven with thick stone masonry that retains heat for hours, even after the fire burns down and is cleaned out of the oven. From that oven, come some wonderful things.


Artisanal bread is handcrafted using old European techniques and preservative-free, natural ingredients, then baked fresh daily, directly on the clean oven hearth. There are several beautiful varieties of bread to choose from, including Caledon Sourdough, Red Fife Whole Wheat, Boston Mills Multigrain, and Epi (gorgeous French-inspired baguettes styled after wheat stalks).


I brought home a Tartine loaf – a Spirit Tree favourite, with a chewy crust and delicious interior.



Spirit Tree’s Maple Walnut Granola is roasted in the wood-fired oven. It has a crisp texture with a pleasing maple flavour that is not too rich or too sweet. It’s made from rolled oats, brown sugar, maple, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, almonds, pecans, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Healthy never tasted so good!

Whole pies and quiches (filled with a variety of delicious ingredients) are baked fresh on the premises and available ready-to-eat or frozen. I picked up a frozen Quiche Lorraine filled with bacon, potato, thyme and swiss cheese. I have it stored in my freezer, ready for an easy brunch. For Thanksgiving, consider pumpkin pie or gluten-free Applicious pumpkin pie, but be sure to call in advance to pre-order. Cheese buns, cinnamon buns, tarts, cookies, and scones (which are delicious, according to my sister) are offered daily.

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery even makes a couple of enticing gourmet pâtés. I picked up Pâté with Ice Cider & Shallots – the ingredients sound delectable: chicken livers, clarified butter, shallots, port, brandy, ice cider, Calvados, apple syrup, eggs, spices. It’s frozen in adorable little 165g ceramic pots – I am storing it in my freezer for Christmas entertaining.

The owners’ insistence on quality, natural ingredients is evident again in the gourmet food they bring in from local artisans. Spirit Tree’s farm store is filled with fine quality, artisanal gourmet food – a gourmet gal’s dream.

merediths_ginger_syrup Meredith’s Ginger Syrup is a fusion of fresh ginger root extracts and natural honey raised on Meredith’s organic farm in Meaford, Ontario. My favourite way to add this healthy elixir to my diet it is to add the juice of half a lemon and a dash of cayenne powder to 1 cup of hot or cold water, then stir in two tablespoons of Meredith’s Ginger Syrup for a rejuvenating morning habit that my friend Angela has got me started on. Of course, you can omit the cayenne and the lemon and enjoy a lovely, soothing drink of spicy ginger that will warm you from the inside out.

Handcrafted in small batches at the Deerhurst resort in Muskoka by chef Shelley Westgarth, Belly Ice Cream is served in some of the finest restaurants (such as the Ritz Carlton’s TOCA) and sold in several of the finest gourmet food stores throughout Ontario (including Spirit Tree Estate Cidery). Shelley uses locally-sourced, all natural, preservative-free ingredients and dreams up a variety of creative, gourmet flavours like these.


I bought Dulce de Leche with Spiced Chocolate ice cream – did they know I was coming? This flavour was made for me: dulce de leche caramel ice cream, toffee bits and thin wafers of Belgian dark chocolate that melt on your tongue and leave you with a little kick of heat. A variety of amazing flavours, sold in 500 mL containers or individual serving sizes, are available at Spirit Tree Estate Cidery.

You will also find Sheldon Creek Dairy products (such as traditional unhomogenized milk with cream on the top), Wicked Shortbread, Roothman’s Gourmet Preserves, and a bounty of other gourmet goodies.


My sister and I enjoyed a light lunch in the tasting room. The high ceilings, rustic decor, and touches of elegant black or white calligraphy scrolled on the walls and blackboards made us feel like we were eating in a charming French mas (farmhouse). You can also eat on the outdoor porch or the picnic tables scattered on the lawn, if the weather permits. Brunch and lunch are served from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. Daily sandwiches and a farmhouse charcuterie platter are also on the menu.


The atmosphere is casual but the quality of the food is superb. The daily quiche was filled with wood-oven-dried tomatoes, sautéed spinach, thyme and chèvre, all suspended in a lovely egg custard. It came with a healthy side salad of barley, red quinoa, baby arugula, and diced vegetables.


Our gracious and knowledgeable server, Alyssa, informed us that the daily soup (mushroom) was made with homemade vegetable stock, fresh rosemary from the garden, and a just a hint of cream. It was chock-full of mushrooms and had a full mushroom flavour – the best mushroom soup I have had in a long time.  Soup is served with slices of Spirit Tree’s delicious Country French bread.


I couldn’t resist and ordered both a well-prepared café latté and a freshly-pressed sweet cider that tasted like apple in a glass – so much fresher tasting than mass-produced, grocery store apple juice that has been processed, filtered, treated, sweetened, and watered down.


Friday night is pizza night. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to try Spirit Tree’s hand-tossed, wood-fired oven pizza yet, I am told that it is a real treat. Pizza toppings range from traditional to creative, quality ingredients. To an adventurous eater like me, the Cider House Blues pizza sounds heavenly: caramelized onions, wood-oven roasted potatoes, sliced apples, mozzarella, blue cheese, rosemary, and walnuts drizzled with honey. Oh my! Pizzas are served from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and are baked to order, so call ahead. You can either take your pizza to go or enjoy it on Spirit Tree’s picnic tables, when weather permits.

Visit Spirit Tree Estate Cidery on Saturdays or Sundays at 2:00 p.m. for a drop-in, guided tour ($5 includes free-tasting) or check the website for details on pre-booked group tours. Sparkling sweet apple cider will be available in October, when Mother Nature dictates.

Fall is the perfect time of year to take a scenic drive through Caledon to Spirit Tree Estate Cidery. When I went with my sister last week, the leaves were just beginning to be tinged with colour. I’ll be back at Thanksgiving for more cider and again closer to Christmas to stock up on gourmet goodies for easy entertaining. I’d love to make it to the wassailing ceremony on Family Day in February, to sing to the apple trees. Stay tuned to my blog for more information, closer to the date. Whenever you go, bring a cooler to safely transport any frozen goodies home.

Spirit Tree Estate Cidery
1137 Boston Mills Road
Caledon, Ontario, Canada
L7C 0N1
Telephone: 905-838-2530
Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

View Larger Map

Belly Ice Cream Company:

Meredith’s Ginger Syrup:

Roothmans Gourmet Preserves:

Sheldon Creek Dairy:

Wicked Shortbread:


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Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet

My Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet turns sweet dark cherries, a touch of cream, and a faint but alluring hint of rose water into a luscious make-ahead summer dessert that will make you dream you are feasting in a sultan’s tent under a starry Sahara sky.

Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet

Rose water is the essential water that is left behind in the steam distillation of rose petals to extract rose oil for perfume. Olive to fill a bowl with tap water, add a healthy splash of rose water, and float some delicate rose petals on the surface as a pretty table decoration or a refreshing gesture for pampered guests in my bathroom.

Rose Water

For centuries, fragrant rose water has laced sweets and drinks in Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean, and Southeast Asian cuisines. Did you know rose water was common in American and European baking until the 19th century when vanilla stole the scene?

French Pastry Chef Pierre Hermé (widely acclaimed as the “Picasso of Pastry” and the “Couturier of Haute Pâtisserie”) brought rose water back into vogue in Paris when he combined the flavours of rose, raspberry, and lychee into a much sought-after macaron creation he calls Ispahan (after the Damask rose).  His book titled Ispahan (to be published in September 2013 by Editions de La Martinière) will be dedicated to interpretations of his famous flavour combination.

Rose water has since made its way back into the spotlight on this side of the pond. When I read in the June 2013 issue of Chatelaine magazine that Toronto’s Cava restaurant was using rose water in their Strawberry Rose Water Sorbet, I decided to try the combination of rose water and black cherries in a sherbet. I think it turned out beautifully.

As a springboard for my recipe, I started with Ree Drummond’s Cherry Sherbet recipe (olive her blog The Pioneer Woman); but I cut back on the dairy and sugar, eliminated the alcohol, increased the amount of cherries, and added the rose water. And I made it without an ice cream maker, using a simple tray-in-the-freezer-by-hand method instead.

The heavy rains have shortened the local cherry season which will probably finish up by this weekend so try to get some local cherries while you still can. I found these beauties (grown in Jordan Station, Ontario) at Longo’s on Monday.

Sweet Dark Cherries

I pit cherries the same way I do olives. Make a small slit in the cherry, place the flat side of a chef’s knife over a single cherry and push down carefully with the heel of your hand until the cherry crushes open and the pit is easily removed. It will take a bit of time, but I relax at my kitchen table while pitting my cherries and find it therapeutic. And since you need to make this recipe a day in advance, all the work will be done well ahead of serving it.

Serve my Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet in small portions in tiny, pretty cups. Sprinkle some fresh rose petals or rosebud tea at each place setting for added romance.

Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet

Black Cherry Rose Water Sherbet

Makes about 2 cups

You need to make this lovely sherbet one day before serving, then freeze overnight until ready to serve. Be careful not to add too much rose water, which can easily overpower a recipe; there is just a subtle hint in my recipe.


4 cups fresh sweet dark (black) cherries, freshly pitted by you (yes you!)

3/4 cup white sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon rose water (see notes below)

juice of 1 lemon


Place the cherries and sugar in a wide saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently; then reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until cherries are soft and liquid thickens to syrup, about 7 to 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Add the cherries with syrup to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add cream, rose water, and lemon juice. Blend just until combined.

If you have an ice cream maker, great! But I don’t, so here’s what I do:

Pour the cherry mixture into a 9-by-13-inch freezer-safe baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and place the dish in your freezer. After 45 minutes, use a fork and rubber spatula to scrape the frozen edges in toward the centre, breaking up any lumps while stirring. Repeat every 30 minutes for 2 to 3 hours, until frozen.

When fully frozen, place the sherbet in an air-tight, freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the freezer, overnight, until ready to serve the next day. The sherbet is best eaten the day after it is made. Serve in small portions in tiny, pretty cups.

Note: Because it is perishable, store your rose water in the refrigerator after opening.

Cortas Rose Water: available at Adonis supplies Nielsen-Massey Rose Water.

Herbal Rosebud Tea from Village Foods: available at Adonis

Fresh Rose Petals: courtesy of Roscoe’s Roses (did you notice some missing Dad?)

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Strawberry Tart & Supermoon: Welcome Summer!

What better way to celebrate the arrival of summer than under a perigee supermoon (the closest and largest full moon of 2013)…

Supermoon 2013

with an equally spectacular strawberry tart?

Olive's Strawberry Tart

My Strawberry Tart is a simple but elegant way to showcase the fragrant, local field strawberries that I picked up at Streetsville Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

Local Field Strawberries

Based on the gorgeous fruit tarts popular in France during festival time, my recipe is an easy and relatively healthy summer dessert that looks almost as stunning as a tarte aux fraises from a fine Parisian pâtisserie. After listening to the utterly charming audiobook French Women Don’t Get Fat (read by the author herself, Mireille Guiliano), I learned that the fattening pastry cream, that is often spread over the base of a tarte aux fraises, is not necessary. Great, because I am not crazy about pastry cream, but olive strawberries!

Olive's Tarte aux Fraises

There are a few easy steps to this tart. You can make the simple syrup required for the coulis well in advance. It keeps for 2 to 3 weeks in your fridge and can be used to dress a fruit salad or to sweeten homemade lemonade or ice tea.

Bake the crisp, shortbread cookie crust in the morning, filling your kitchen with a delicious aroma, then set it aside to cool. It has a hint of ground almonds, which you can replace with flour if there are allergy concerns.

Later (at least two hours before you want to serve the tart), fill the tart with a concentric arrangement of the prettiest, similar-sized, scarlet-coloured strawberries you can find. Then make the coulis and glaze the berries immediately. The berries will glisten under the coulis; both will perfume the air with sweetness. Refrigerate the tart for at least two hours to allow the coulis to set. It’s best eaten the day it’s made but it is still good the next day or two, with a softer crust. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if you wish.

You can use other seasonal fruit instead, such as raspberries, peaches, or apricots (but not kiwi, pineapple, papaya, or figs). Make sure you use the same fruit for the coulis.

Olive’s Strawberry Tart

Simple Syrup:

1 ¼ cups white granulated sugar
1 cup water

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until sugar has dissolved, stirring a couple of times. When the sugar is completely dissolved, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Boil for 5 minutes. Cool before storing in a covered jar in your fridge for up to 2 to 3 weeks. Can be used to dress a fruit salad or sweeten homemade lemonade or ice tea.

Shortbread Cookie Crust:

1 cup flour (measured by spooning flour into cup and leveling off with a knife)
1/3 cup finely ground almonds (option: replace with an equal amount of flour)
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in small cubes

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of the inside of a 10” round tart pan with straight, fluted sides and a removable bottom.

Mix the flour, ground almonds, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl with a whisk until combined. Cut in the butter by rubbing the flour mixture and butter between your fingertips, until the mixture blends into coarse crumbs. Knead gently with your hands to form a ball.

Distribute pieces of the dough evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using the heel of your hand, pat the dough to cover the bottom and sides evenly. Make sure there are no gaps. Bake on the middle oven rack for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely before adding the fruit.

Strawberry Filling & Strawberry Coulis Glaze:

2 quarts of strawberries, washed, dried thoroughly, and hulled but left whole

Pick out the best-looking, similar-sized berries and arrange them on top of the crust in an attractive, concentric pattern, with their tips pointing up and their hulled ends pointing down.

Note: You will need approximately 1 ½ quarts of strawberries to fill the tart and for the coulis but buy 2 quarts just to be sure and to allow you to pick out enough of the best berries for the tart. You will need 1 ½ cups of strawberries for the coulis.

Coulis Glaze:

3 gelatin sheets
1 1/2 cups whole ripe strawberries, hulled
A squeeze of lemon juice
4 tablespoons Simple Syrup (see recipe above)

Prepare the gelatin sheets according to package directions, first following the Basic Directions and then the Cold Preparation Directions.

Meanwhile, purée the raw strawberries with a squeeze of lemon juice in a food processor. Add the simple syrup and blend. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, rubbing through with a rubber spatula. Discard the seeds and remaining pulp.

Before the gelatin begins to set, fold the gelatin into the strained coulis; then immediately pour the coulis evenly over the tart to glaze each berry. Refrigerate the tart until the coulis is set, about 2 hours. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Note: I learned the basics of simple syrup, coulis, and glazes from the Gordon Ramsay Desserts cookbook. He uses many interesting ingredients to whip up different variations of flavoured stock syrups, coulis, and glazes. It’s well worth checking out the cookbook, available from the Mississauga Library. I modified his recipes for Stock Syrup and Coulis to fit the requirements of this recipe.

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Olive’s Salade Maison

I love winter. I love every inch of the snow from the storm that hit our region on February 8th. I love to watch my son play in the snow with our dog Buddy. Buddy happily romping through the snow, my son smiling and waving through the dance of the evanescent snowflakes.  I savor the moment and ingrain the memory in my heart.

It won’t be long before spring comes though and with that, the shedding of our winter clothes that never seems to coincide with the shedding of our winter fat. You know the fat I am talking about – all those Christmas cookies and holiday goodies, all that winter comfort food that I hide under my big warm comfy sweater.

Wake up! Spring will be here before we know it.

Egad! We will be in shorts!! Now is the time to lighten our palates and clean up our plates.When I vacationed in Provence, France I was inspired by the Provencal state of mind and their attitude toward food and eating. More on that later. Rather than frites or copious quantities of carbs, beautiful frilly leaf lettuce salads danced across half of each Provencal lunch plate that I ordered.

Here is my version of such a salad.

I gather frilly leaf lettuce, Italian flat-leaf parsley, purple cabbage, carrots (I cheat and buy them already shredded), ripe tomatoes, red onion, and crisp mini English cucumbers. In the summer, I may throw in fresh mint or dill.

I make a big batch at the beginning of every week, then take out enough for each serving and dress it just before eating.

Olive’s Salade Maison (enough to last all week)


2 heads of frilly leaf lettuce

1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/2 small head purple cabbage, finely shredded

1/2 purple onion (or more to taste), finely sliced

4-6 mini cucumbers, sliced

1 bag shredded carrots, rinsed, drained and dried well

6-8 Campari tomatoes, quartered


Slice the lettuce in very wide strips. Gently but carefully wash the leaf lettuce and dry it well. The leaves are delicate so be easy on it.  Add the remaining ingredients, which have also been washed and dried thoroughly and prepped as directed above. Store in the refrigerator, ideally in a lettuce crisper.
Take out only as much as you need daily. Dress simply with a tumble first in your best extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt then a drizzle of your favourite vinegar. Or treat yourself to Bobby’s Hideaway House Vinaigrette. If you like, toss in some pitted and sliced kalamata olives and crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese.

I am going to adorn half of every plate I eat with this lovely salad and tumble in its happy leaves, transport my soul to a Provencal state of mind, then kick up my heels to Milord by Edith Piaf….la, la, la, la, la, la… .


Allez, venez, Milord
Vous asseoir à ma table
Il fait si froid, dehors
Ici c’est confortable
Laissez-vous faire, Milord
Et prenez bien vos aises
Vos peines sur mon coeur
Et vos pieds sur une chaise
Je vous connais, Milord
Vous n’m’avez jamais vue
Je ne suis qu’une fille du port
Qu’une ombre de la rue…

Come along, Milord!
Sit at my table;
It is so cold, outside,
Here it’s comfortable.
Relax, Milord
And make yourself at ease,
Your troubles on my heart
And your feet on a chair
I know you, Milord,
You’ve never seen me,
I’m just a girl from the docks,
Just a shadow of the street.

Lyrics and translation courtesy of

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