How you can still make the most of visiting apple orchards and cider mills
Published: October 10, 2012
As fall comes around and we find relief from the record heat of this year's summer, Michiganders flock to cider mills and orchards to guzzle cider, pick their own apples and devour luscious, greasy cinnamon donuts.
Unfortunately, this year is different. The lovely early spring (that most of us naively enjoyed) paired with an April frost caused a record amount of damage to our beloved apple crop. On average, Michigan yields 20-23 million bushels a year, according to the Michigan Apple Committee, but this year the crop size is only about 3 million bushels. As a result, many local orchards have cut down their season and eliminated "U-Pick" apple options, and some mills won't have any apples for sale at all. The loss is devastating to local growers, which is why this year your visit is needed more than ever. This is probably the best excuse you could possibly find to go support local growers and vendors by stuffing your face — if not with cider and apples, then with donuts, peanut brittle and the like. There are also more attractions than apples, with such draws as hayrides, petting zoos and more.
Almar Orchards 1431 Duffield Rd., Flushing; 810-659-6568; almarorchards.com: This orchard, located just outside of Flint, offers a year-round petting zoo with a herd of reindeer, hayrides in season, and all-organic selections of donuts, honey, bread, fudge and caramel corn, both from the orchard and local businesses. Almar's has also begun raising an old-heritage breed of pig for its organic Berkshire pork. And don't miss out on the hard cider, J.K.'s Scrumpy Farmhouse Organic. One Short Order reader tells us, "It's sweet, tart and fizzy with the alcoholic strength of beer and the heady fragrance of Champagne." It's also available at area beverage retailers. Open 9 a.m-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, year-round (except holidays).
Apple Charlie's South Huron Orchards and Cider Mill 38035 S. Huron Rd., New Boston; 734-753-9380; applecharlie.com: Between the bakery, the animal farm, the reasonable prices, the hayrides, the glassed-in cider press, and the handicapped-accessible facilities, the proprietors take pride in the cleanliness and quality of this 60-year-old attraction. Open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week. Closes Dec. 31.
Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill 17985 Armada Center Rd., Armada; 586-784-5343; blakefarms.com: Blake's apple empire encompasses the Armada mill, two Armada orchards, and another one in Almont. But it's the mill that has the petting zoo for the kids and the orchard products for your winter larder. The orchard is still harvesting late-bearing apple trees, and the U-cut Christmas trees harvest will begin in mid-November. Open 8-6 Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday. Closes Dec. 23.
Dexter Cider Mill 3685 Central St., Dexter, 734-426-8531; dextercidermill.com: With more than 120 years of operation, Dexter Cider Mill bills itself as the longest continually run mill in the state, serving wood-pressed cider, donuts, apple pie, caramel apples and apple-nut bread daily. In addition to jellies, butters, hot sauces, boiled cider, maple syrup, honey and popcorn, expect pickled asparagus, soy nuts and even cider slushes. Their award-winning Dexter Cider Mill Apple Cookbook is also available for sale. Season ends mid-November. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m Wednesday-Sunday.
Diehl's Orchard & Cider Mill 1479 Ranch Rd., Holly, 248-634-8981; diehlsorchard.com: Diehl's has every cider mill experience staple. They'll be celebrating their 31st annual "Ciderfest" Sept. 29-30 which features a one or four mile scenic run, craft show, apple pie baking contest and live entertainment. Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. until Halloween. Closes Nov. 1.
Erwin Orchards Inc. 61475 Silver Lake Rd., South Lyon, 248-437-4701; erwinorchards.com: After James N. Erwin planted the first tree in 1920 the Erwin family has been steadily growing to 200 packed acres of fruit, cider, a corn maze, petting farm and about anything else imaginable that can fit in an orchard fortress. Undoubtedly Erwin will have something for everyone. Open 6 a.m.-6.p.m. Monday-Friday, 6 a.m-7 p.m Saturday and Sunday. Closes Nov. 1.
Franklin Cider Mill 7450 Franklin Rd., Bloomfield Hills, 248-626-8261; franklincidermill.com: One of our staffers remarks: "It's the best-tasting cider, and the hot donuts are to die for. The brown paper bags they come in become translucent with grease. The cider press is right there so you can witness the apple carnage. Watch out for bees." Open 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, until Nov. 25. For those going late in the season, the mill offers this appealing opinion: "The sweetest cider is the day we close."
Historic Parshallville Grist Mill 8507 Parshallville Rd., Fenton; 810-629-9079; parshallvillecidergristmill.com: A "Michigan Historic Site," the 143-year-old mill is one of few water-powered mills left in the state. They make cider, donuts, caramel apples and homemade apple pie. Their cider is personally heralded as being made the "old-fashioned way" creating a different taste depending on available apples every time. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Sunday. Closes mid-November.
Hy's Cider Mill 6350 37 Mile Rd., Romeo; 810-798-3611; hyscidermill.com: Fresh cider and "U-Pick" apples are the main draw at Hy's. If you're feeling a bit wild they also offer up a recipe on their website to create a caramel apple smoothie, using their special cider. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Closes Oct. 28.
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