The truth is that cider mill season is pretty much over. Most Cider Mills close their doors Thanksgiving weekend, which means that Mick and I finally made it to one on one of the very last days that we could. I am a little disappointed in that the leaves have been off of the trees for a few weeks now, and it is starting to feel a bit more wintery than fallish, but even though the scenery outside is lacking, the cider and doughnuts are as good as ever!
I have very definite ideas on what makes a good cider mill, a good cider mill. (Shocker, huh?)
1. A Little History and Few Gimmicks. Okay, so really a cider mill is kind of a big gimmick, given that you can almost certainly make apple cider in an easier, modern, and possibly more sanitary way. That aside, there is something very nice about visiting a place that has been doing things the same way (relatively speaking) since the 1800's or early 1900's. We decided to visit the Dexter Cider Mill, which has been in operation since 1886. They use a wood press to make the cider and the doughnuts are served just as they should be... hot! When we got there, we also found out that it has been featured on the Food Network. I tried to find a clip, but could not, so if you should come across it, send it my way!
By few gimmicks, I mean, I think that a cider mill should primarily be a cider mill. There is a trend among newer cider mills to throw in a petting zoo, corn maze, hay ride, clowns...whatever. Technically, those are still cider mills, given that they have cider and doughnuts, but really they strike me as more of an... attraction? I can't find the right word. It is just not the same, somehow. I know that parents feel pressure to constantly entertain their kids, but there is something valuable in teaching them that the trip and a yummy doughnut are a special treat.
2. Creaky floors, Creepy store. A great cider mill should have wooden floors and look like a ghost will materialize at any moment. And there is nothing wrong with a little messy. The Dexter Cider Mill also has the added bonus of a really lovely atmosphere to enjoy your purchases. Just down the stairs...
The cider mill set up tables all around the Huron River. Again, I wish that we had the chance to come earlier in the fall. Imagine that river with all of the fall colors around it! (And kayakers floating by.)
3. One kind of doughnut. Plain. Yep, there is no better pairing for cider than a plain, cider mill doughnut. Cinnamon/ sugar is also permissible, but nothing more. Most real cider mills will only offer the one (possibly two) types. The have a very specific size and texture. The outside should definitely be a little crispy. The telltale sign of good cider mill doughnut is this:
If your bag isn't a little greasy, it means that A) The doughnuts may be a little old, or B) They were made off site. (And that is NOT a real cider mill!) The woman that sold these to us said, "These should still be hot. I just made them!" Thank you nice lady! And when you open that greasy bag...
VOILA! There they are in all of their perfection. Mmmm
4. An authentic cider mill might have cider that is... well... read for yourself:
Okay, you might be thinking that this is gross, but have you ever eaten Feta? You have had an un-pasturized product. Pasturized is preferable, but to me, this could just be another small indication that the cider production is still as close to original as possible. And for the record, I have never heard of anyone getting sick from apple cider.
For those of you that have never had the cider and doughnut experience, you may be wondering why this is a pairing at all. Let me assure you that a hot, crispy, plain doughnut dunked in cider is just divine!!!