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Ahhhhhh, Autumn! What is it about the first leaf turning that sends me into a frenzy? Maybe it’s because I had such a deprived childhood. Okay, by deprived I mean that, while growing up in Florida sounds like heaven to so many, the only colored leaves we ever saw were in photographs or cut from construction paper. So the change in the air, the change in the sound and the vision of a colored leaf just sets off all my happiness whistles.
I must admit that, for all those years I lived in Georgia, a trip to Elijay for apples was definitely on my list. Now that I live in Michigan (one of the premier apple-producing states) it’s really easy to appease my apple “jones.” There are several, wonderful cider mills within a few minutes of my house.
Two of my favorites are in Parshallville and Dexter.
Parshallville’s cider mill is in a wonderful, old, former grist mill. It has a waterwheel and sits beside a rushing creek. It just looks like something out of a Frost poem. Inside is dark and crowded with any number of different varieties of apples that are coming off the trees at the time. (An aside here…Did you know that different varieties of apples mature at differing times?) There are also bags of apple crisp fixin’s, apple pies (the traditional type), apple bread, caramel apples, apple butter, apple… well, you get the picture. If it has to do with apples, it’s stuffed into the tiny store space. Then there’s the counter where they sell the cider and the DOUGHNUTS!!!!
Cider comes in all forms in Michigan. In virtually every cider mill I’ve ever been in here in Michigan, you can get cider in it’s cold, straight from the jug form, as a slushy, or hot. There are some mills where you can get apple cider mixed with cherry cider, but I opt for the straight, unadulterated apple.
The Dexter cider mills is the closest to our home. It’s also the oldest continuously operating cider mill in Michigan.
Cider is made the same way it was 120 years ago. They use an oak rack press that is over 100 years old. Each cider pressing utilizes three to five different varieties of apples which makes each press distinctive. As in wine and olive oil, each batch has it’s own character and flavor.
The Dexter Cider Mill (as with most cider mills) uses only locally grown, hand-picked apples. I especially appreciate that because that’s money staying in our county and, more importantly, I know those apples are safe. It just feels right that something as all-American as apple pie truly is ALL AMERICAN.
Now for the part that makes my mouth water just thinking about them – DOUGHNUTS!!!! While I truly miss my fried pies (haven’t had a decent one in 8 years – since I moved from Georgia), the doughnuts at cider mills are the best I’ve ever had – anywhere. They usually come in two or three varieties (all cake) – plain, cinnamon-sugared, and powder-sugared. I’ve seen cider-flavored doughnuts, pumpkin doughnuts, and pumpkin-glazed doughnuts in a few places; however, the gold standard are plain and cinnamon-sugared. When they are hot out of the fryer, ohhhhh, there’s just nothin’ like ‘em. They get a crispy crust, but the inside is soft, warm, and not too sweet. A doughnut and cider is quintessentially Michigan in the fall.
What says “FALL” to you? I hope you’ll share!
Up Next: Old Friends @the Beach!