Welcome to cider mill season
It’s late September and the leaves of Michigan are already hinting at hues of burgundy and gold. That can only mean one thing… cider mill time!
I'm hoping you’ve not been one of the unfortunate few who have not yet experienced a cider mill. If you are… no worries!
You’re about to learn about something awesome.
The perfect date day
Ever feel like you’re running out of great date day ideas? Whether you’ve been married for ten years or still part of the dating app scene, it can be a challenge to think of date friendly activities. I’ve got great news. The cider mill comes up a winner every time!
There’s an art to planning a date day. It’s got to have that just-right combination of planning and spontaneity. A trip to the cider mill is a solid choice because it never gets old. There’s only a small window of time in the year to take advantage of it. Then it’s tucked away and forgotten until next year.
By the time next fall rolls around, everyone is winding down from a sun-soaked summer and eager to throw on their favorite hoodie and taste the delights of autumn once again.
The perfect date day should always include these elements:
food or snacks
an opportunity to walk and have a light-hearted conversation
a portion of the date should be in an upbeat public space with the potential to continue to a more one on one setting
a chance to see something out of the ordinary like animals or exceptional scenery
Cider mills are pulling up all aces on those fronts!
So, what exactly is a cider mill?
A cider mill, also known as a cidery, is a seasonal place of wonder. Apple orchards begin to bustle to life and the gentle hum of mill equipment is just barely audible. Fresh, sweet apples are crushed by the truckload, extracting the juicy goodness.
Born and raised in Michigan, there’s no shortage of lovely apple orchards in my town. As soon as fall hints in the air, the mills bounce to life. Thousands of freshly picked, homegrown apples get converted daily. In addition, most cider mills offer warm baked donuts, apple strudel, and pies.
It’s worth noting that not all states offer cider mills… because they don’t grow apples.
I’m fortunate enough to boast five cider mills within driving distance of me. My all-time favorite is Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The Yates grounds, like many others, are also home to a host of adorable farm animals that are more than happy to share a taste of your newly purchased goodies.
I’m a sucker for the goats!
The goats steal my attention every time. It’s a family-friendly mill and there’s not a single face missing a smile on it. It’s pretty difficult to not have a great time when sweet treats are involved.
The dirt and gravel parking lot is jam-packed from open til close as a testament to the overwhelming love for this seasonal pastime. Once you’ve got your cider and donuts you’ll find yourself wandering about the grounds, strolling down one of the many beautiful tree-lined walking paths.
“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” — William Cullen Bryant
Don’t be discouraged if you’re hard-pressed to find any cider mills in your area. It’s worth an adventure and a bit of research. Here’s your opportunity to plan a seasonally themed weekend getaway. Let autumn work to your advantage. Sweep your sweetheart off their feet and whisk them off to a state that does have one. Plan a scenic weekend filled with sweet treats, fabulous boot and sweater weather, an apple orchard tour, and a hayride.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” — Albert Camus
What’s the difference between apple cider and apple juice?
You may be wondering what makes cider so special. Apple juice is also made with crushed apples. However, apple juice goes through a filtration system and gets pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer.
Apple cider, on the other hand, gets crushed fresh and immediately bottled, leaving bits of the pulp. Cider is raw goodness that’s not pasteurized for longevity. It’s meant to be enjoyed immediately. In fact, apple cider will only stay drinkable for a few days before expiring. But I doubt your gallon will last long enough to worry. One cup is never enough. I usually polish off my gallon before I even leave the mill.
Apples are delicious!
Drinking a fresh cool cup of apple cider is an invigorating rush to your taste buds with an undeniable feeling of autumn. It invokes an almost primal appreciation for the land, and humanity's connection to it.
My happy place
If you’re considering grabbing your sweetie and venturing out to a cider mill, do some research. Pick out some potential locations, and visit their websites. Each one is unique in its own way.
I’d be lying if I said I only frequent one of my local cider mills. But the one I look forward to the most is Yates Cider Mill and for good reason. The baked goodies! It’s a guilty pleasure, I know, but I tell myself it’s just apples and apples are good for me.
With the busy schedule I keep, walking the beautiful paths and savoring one of their delicious caramel-covered apples or incredible empanadas is a slice of absolute heaven. The crisp fall air is refreshing and inspiring.
My heart smiles.
There’s something comforting about watching the other families sitting at the picnic benches joking and drinking cider. Couples scurry along the dirt walkways with their puppies in tow, and there’s a sense that we’re all connected. Connected by apples.
Fun cider facts I bet you didn’t know…
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. It must be true seeing as how President John Adams prided himself on drinking cider every single morning with breakfast. A staunch believer in its health benefits, he lived to the ripe old age of 90… an admirable feat in his time.
It takes nearly 20lbs of apples to make one gallon of cider… wow! Next time you drink a cup of cider, just imagine what a labor of love it was to make.
Children of the 14th Century were baptized in cider. As hard as it may be to fathom, cider was actually clearer than the water back then.
365 different varieties of cider apples are grown today… and that number gets larger every year.
In closing, It’s my most sincere hope that you have the opportunity to partake in the cidery goodness of a local mill. Surprise someone you care about with a day trip. You won’t regret it.
If a cider mill is just absolutely not an option for you… get creative. For many years I lived in sunny Florida. No cider mills there for sure. But you know what Florida does have?… oranges! That’s right. Sweet sun-kissed oranges. And where there are oranges… there are orange groves.
Orange groves are the southern version of a cider mill. You pick citrus, swamp safari rides, orange juice tasting, and more await Floridians all year long.
So no excuses… get out there… and explore the season!