My favorite thing about growing up in the Midwest was definitely the fall. I love the color change, crunching the leaves under my feet, Halloween, warm snuggly sweaters and going to the Cider Mill. I appreciated all of these things during the 26 years I spent growing up in Michigan, but I did not realize how much I took them for granted until I moved to the West Coast. Our first move was in 2006 from Michigan to Seattle. We moved in August and I was so excited and nervous, that I did not spend much time thinking about the things that I was going to miss. Summer turned into fall, which made me excited, because I still got to experience fall in Seattle…I was ready to see how amazing the Cider Mills were. Washington is the #1 apple producing state in the country, follow by New York and then Michigan, so they had to have the best Cider Mills! In the middle of September, I started mapping out all of the fall fun that we would have. To my surprise, I could not find a single Cider Mill! When I started to ask around I was met with a perplexed gaze from most people, who asked me if I tried looking in Yakima, WA. When I told them I had, they responded with “I guess I don’t know what you are looking for then, you can get apples and cider at the farmer’s market.” FAIL!
In the Midwest, it is a tradition for most people to load their family and friends into the car, drive a good 45 minutes to an hour to a place called a Cider Mill. At this said Cider Mill, you will experience all the things that are wonderful… The joy of picking your own apples! Spend an obscene amount of time watching a woman who looks like your grandmother, make amazing fudge and pies from scratch! See how cider is made as it is pumped through the cider mill, while you are simultaneously sipping on fresh hot apple cider and eating at least a dozen piping hot donuts! Take a bumpy butt numbing hayride out to the apple field, because you like the challenge of not spilling your 5th cup of cider on yourself. In the apple field you will frolic around a bit, and completely wreck your fancy apple picking shoes on all of the rotten apples you are prancing on. You will then proceed to pick way more apples than you need, because it is fun and you have become an apple-picking machine! On your way to pay for the bushel of apples you just picked, you will stop and get a candy apple snack, because it is pretty and you worked hard. You will buy more cider and donuts for the road, along with your Halloween pumpkins, some amazing fudge and a pie from grandma and leave with an epic stomachache and a huge grin on your face. Winning!
Derika and I lived in Seattle for 4 years, and every Fall I looked for a Cider Mill thinking that I was crazy, but I never found one! My next million-dollar idea will be opening up a Cider Mill in Washington. 😉 We moved to San Diego in August of 2010. Fall really snuck up on me the first year we were in San Diego, because it was 80 and sunny through October and most of November. I actually swam for the last time on Halloween that year! Because of the amazing weather, I was running a little behind in my Cider Mill research. But with or without the weather distraction, I was not having much Cider Mill luck. All of our friends kept telling us to take a ride up to Julian, CA…they said that we would be able to find Cider Mills, pies and fudge made by a grandma and an amazing hard cider. I was sold! In early November 2010, Derika and I jumped into the Mini for a day of Cider Mill fun in Julian. The ride to Julian was beautiful, and the town of Julian was adorable…but there wasn’t a Cider Mill in sight! We did end up stopping at a cute little bar that was attached to The Bailey Wood Pit BBQ. The wait for the BBQ place was long, and all we really wanted was pie and a hard cider. The bar was empty, cozy and we were we able to get some of the notorious Julian Pie a la mode and a Julian Hard Cider! Sooooooo, GOOD! We had an amazing time and I would recommend a trip to Julian to get your pie and hard cider fix if you are ever in San Diego.
We moved to New York in August on 2013…I don’t know why we always move in August. I swear it is not intentional. After we got unpacked I started doing research on trips for the fall. I was so excited to learn that Cider Mills do in fact exist in New York and New Jersey! We decided to take a little road trip to one in New Jersey that was about 45 minutes outside of Manhattan called Melick’s Cider Mill and Orchard. The drive was simple and they had it all….pick your own apples, hayrides, candy apples, cider, donuts, and pumpkins! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. It had been 7 years since I had been to a Cider Mill, and I needed to pick apples immediately. We went over to a cute old woman who supplied us with an empty basket and a fancy apple-picking tool (that I have never seen before) and she pointed us in the direction of the apples!
Surprisingly, this was Derika’s first time to picking apples…I have no idea how I let that happened!? We had so much fun and the handy-dandy apple-picking tool really was super helpful. I might need to bring this idea back to Michigan! We ended up picking more apples than we needed, because we had become professional apple pickers in no time at all. We left with a ton of apples, a half-gallon of cider, some pumpkins and a huge grin on our faces and no stomachache…Winning! Over the past couple of weeks we have shared the apple love with our friends, and we have been creative in how we have been using the apples. I made some stuffed apples for dessert the other night.
Also I am currently working on some Apple Cinnamon Whiskey!
Stay tuned for recipes, and get out and appreciate your local Cider Mills if you live near any! I am already counting down the days until my next Cider Mill trip! Yay Fall!