Cider Mill Heaven

Sunday, September 28, 2003
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Fall is here. Well, at least it has come to Michigan. We’re expecting highs in the 40s this week – already. Yikes! I love fall in the Midwest, but I hate to see summer end. But you haven’t experienced a perfect autumn until you’ve experienced a Midwest (or Northeast) autumn. Here in Michigan, we have the world’s best apples. (Washington State folks would argue with me.) Michiganders look especially forward to one thing in September – November: going to the cider mills. We have cider mills here like Florida has orange trees.

What do you do at a cider mill? Go on a chilly but sunny fall, weekend morning, buy the fresh mini-donuts hot out of the oven, buy a gallon of fresh apple cider made that morning, sit outside and eat, and get attacked by swarms of bees. Sound fun? The cider is heaven. You must have fresh apple cider hot!

In addition, the mills all have bakeries with homemade pies (pumpkin and pecan!), they sell fresh-picked produce from the local farms, and the bigger mills have specialty stores that sell homemade jellies, Michigan honey, Michigan syrup, and other locally-packaged specialty products.

What do you do on the way home? Stop at one or two of your favorite farms that have their little produce stands out front, selling fresh produce. You’ll pass a dozen or more farms that do this. The products are A-1, and the prices are unbelievably low. That’s the great thing about late summer and fall here: no more store-bought produce. Only the real thing. Fresh MI tomatoes, corn, broccoli, melons, squash, farm-fresh brown eggs, eggplant, potatoes, onions, peppers (sweet and jalapeno), and best of all — brussel sprouts.

I can’t wait until October when the brussel sprouts are harvested. Ever take home one of them huge brussel sprout stems, and hand-pick them off the vine? Delicious! And Michigan tomatoes? There is no place like the upper Midwest to grow tomatoes (MI, MN, WI). My garden, consisting of nothing but tomatoes this year, is the tomato garden from hell. My plants went wild this year, and they grew 7-8 ft. tall, sometimes giving me 20-30 Beefsteaks, Big Boys, and Early Girls (oops, I must be a “feminist”) every day. Beefsteaks are the best. Slice up a cold one, put salt and pepper on it, and it’s a meal. I’ve been shipping them to my parents out West; MI tomatoes are a slice of home for them. We have a deal: I ship Mom her tomatoes across 2,500 miles, and she ships me her homemade stuffed cabbages.

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