It's November, which means...I probably should have posted this a month ago. Ooops. BUT! The weather is not quite entirely vile yet, so you still have a few good weeks of valuable cider season goodness left!
Usually I like to make a day of it. Get all bundled up in cozy sweaters and head out to Armada with family members or a significant other to the original Blake's Orchard & Cider Mill and spend the whole day sipping cider, wandering through the U-Pick orchards, petting the farm animals. Many pleasant childhood and young adult memories were had here (NOT at the second-rate Blake's Big Red, nonononono). But alas, time did not permit this year, and I had to make do with a quick stop to a much closer locale.
For those of your reading out by the A2 way, you've got it made: the historic Dexter Cider Mill is but a hop and skip away. The oldest continuously operating cider mill in Michigan, they still make cider the way they did 120 with an oak rack (which is itself over 100 years old). This place is a taste of history to go with your apple pie, and a real agricultural and historical treat.
Alas, Dexter also proved to be too far away.
For those of you hailing from the counties Oakland and Macomb, you have a couple of nearby options. The Franklin Cider Mill is a favorite of locals, mostly because it is so closeby. Tucked away on this little inexplicably remote corner of 14 Mile Rd. and Franklin (just west of Telegraph) smack-dab between the Bloomfields and Birmingham, for many Westsiders it's only a few minutes' drive. I was introduced to this place when I lived out in West Bloomfield, and never did I imagine a genuine cider mill could be so close to home. I felt almost like it was a violation of my principles, standing in direct contrast to all that which a cider mill should be (far away, in the country, surrounded by farmland, north of 32 Mile Rd.). Plus, they don't have their own orchard, which to me was an abomination--what kind of cider mill doesn't even have their own orchard??? Suffice it to say, Franklin never really grew on me. I can't help it; my maternal side is from Almont. You can take the girl out of the country...
Which brings me to Yates Cider Mill. Yates is located in Rochester Hills at Avon Rd. and Dequindre, about a 20 minute drive from most of Macomb Country and the Troy/Birmingham area. It has been in the community since 1863 (though I don't believe continously operating), and here you will find all of the edible treasures you've come to expect from a proper cider mill: caramel apples, fudge, apple pies, apple turnovers, apple crisp, apple butter, apple syrup, apple jelly, dutch-apple jam, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich*, and doughnuts--all the fresh-made fried doughnuts you can eat, with their grease soaking right through the paper bag.
*Forrest Gump guys, come on.
They also don't have their own orchards, but they make up for it with a prime spot on the Clinton River and a lovely nature trail. They also have pony rides, a petting zoo, and other cider mill-y attractions to make up for it, so it almost feels just about right. It will do in a pinch, at least.
With the fiery fall foliage in full technicolor bloom, now is the perfect time to visit one of Michigan's many historic cider mills. While the benefits of making that half-day trip out to the country is well worth it (the U-pick orchards, the hay rides, the pumpkin patches), if it's cider you crave and time is your enemy, at least you have a few other options. For scenic value and greasy doughnuts, I recommend Yates.