Symphonies in cider
A short guide to notable apple orchards and cider mills in metro Detroit
Published: September 21, 2011
Autumn signals its arrival with a certain snap in the air, morning frosts, falling leaves. We respond with our annual rituals, breaking out sweaters and leaf rakes, readying the trusty ice scraper. And, just as the geese fly south, metro Detroiters fan out to the dozens of apple orchards and cider mills in the region, hungry for pumpkins, cider, donuts, hayrides and — not to be forgotten — our state's extremely diverse apple crop. Of all 50 states, Michigan is the third-largest producer of "nature's toothbrush," according to the Michigan Apple Committee. Each year, as many as 27 million bushels (more than 500,000 tons) of more than 20 varieties are harvested, generating more than a gargantuan $800 million for the state's economy.
And orchards have more than stepped their game up over the years. Many now offer an eclectic amount of apple products to purchase, including apple salsa, slushes, cider, syrup, bread, pies, jams and jellies, not to mention corn mazes, hayrides and more. What's more, if you want to pick your own apples for a cheap supply of the 80-calorie snack, you're still in business.
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 50-year-old attraction. Open 8 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 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. 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, 248-364-8981; diehlsorchard.com: Diehl's has every cider mill experience staple. They'll be celebrating their 30th annual "Ciderfest" Sept. 24-25 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. After that, 9 a.m.-5.pm. Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Closes Nov. 23.
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 daily 6 a.m.-7.p.m. until Halloween. After that, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closes Nov. 23.
Franklin Cider Mill 7450 Franklin Rd., Bloomfield Hills, 248-626-2968; 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. 27. 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 136-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-Friday; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Closes mid-November.
Hy's Cider Mill 6350 37 Mile Rd., Romeo; 810-798-3611; hyscidermill.com: Fresh cider and "U-Pick" apples is 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 Nov. 6.
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