In Michigan, now is the season for flannel shirts, fashionable boots, football, falling leaves and pumpkin spice everything.
According to the Michigan Apple Committee, our state is the third-largest producer of apples. The crisp, crunchy fruit is harvested by more than 800 family-owned farms.
Many of those apples are sold at local cider mills where fall fanatics flock to gather organic cider, doughnuts, candy apples, honey and other farm-fresh goods.
Some cider mills are upping the ante and offering more than spiced cider and sugared doughnuts.
At Uncle John’s Cider Mill (8614 North US 127 in St. Johns) just north of Lansing, owners have turned the mill into a destination with a Michigan-themed gift shop that sells apple products and Michigan-centric gifts.
One of their most popular items, though, is their apple cider slushie. Fifth-generation owner Mike Beck told me that while they’ve been selling the frosty treat for more than a decade, they’ve definitely seen an uptick in sales this year.
“We put a banner out (advertising the slush) and for whatever reason it really took off,” he said, adding that they started offering cider slushies to capture customers earlier in the summer when it was still too warm out for hot cider. “We are busier than usual ... the weather has been above average, the fruit has been looking beautiful, the cider tastes great.”
Yates Cider Mill (1990 E. Avon, Rochester Hills) and Franklin Cider Mill (7450 Franklin, Bloomfield Hills) also sell frozen cider slushes.
The latter is dipping into another popular fall business: football. The Bloomfield Hills mill is stocked up on tailgating treats. Pick up a bottle of Franklin Cider Mill Bloody Mary mix or spicy tomato juice, plus cocktail fixings like pickled asparagus, pickled tomatoes and a variety of pickles. You just need to add your own vodka. They also sell grab-and-go Hickory Farms cheese and meat platters.
Besides the tailgating supplies, Franklin Cider Mill also debuted gluten-free doughnuts this year, as well as vanilla-infused maple syrup.
At Westview Orchards (65075 Van Dyke, Washington Township) there’s a cider mill, winery, U-pick apples and other farm fun, but don’t skip the bakery, which has bacon maple doughnuts, puff pastry “fruit flips” and pie-bread hybrid called, uh, pie bread.
On the healthier side of fall bounty, Rochester Cider Mill (5125 Rochester, Rochester) produces a variety of apple cider vinegar. Those who drink ACV for health reasons know it’s not the easiest thing to suck down, but Rochester Cider Mill makes it in grape, strawberry and cherry flavors. They also have one flavored with beer hops, which is very unique.
Lastly — and speaking of beer — Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill (17985 Armada Center Road, Armada) has what very few cider mills and apple orchards have: a bar. Their tasting room and restaurant serves beer, wine and popular and rare varieties of Blake’s hard cider, as well as lunch, dinner and bar snacks like pumpkin hummus with chips and a charcuterie board.