Dexter Cider Mill: When the Donuts Call, We Must Go
By Doug Marrin
The aroma of cider and donuts will soon again be wafting over the scenic Huron River near Dexter. The Dexter Cider Mill’s opening day is Friday, August 26, and we can’t wait.
The Dexter Cider Mill is Michigan’s longest contiguous running cider mill, now in its 136th year. The mill is owned and operated by husband/wife team Marty and Nancy Steinhauer, who purchased it in 2006 from Nancy's father, Richard Koziski.
“We know people like the history and nostalgic feel of the Dexter Cider Mill,” says Nancy. “We’re careful to maintain that, knowing a lot of folks like the connection.”
To help with that connection, the cider mill will be offering new merchandise this year. T-shirts, caps, glass tumblers, and rustic coffee mugs will be available.
Other items in addition to its famous cider and donuts, the mill offers an assortment of crisp hard ciders featuring the mill’s cider as the base. Apples, pastries, jams, jellies, and other delectables are also available.
For most of us, cider mill season begins in late summer. But for the Steinhauers, it starts as soon as the snow melts.
“I pay close attention to the weather reports,” says Marty. “Our cider season is often determined by spring weather. I’m in contact with our growers to see where they stand with the harvest.”
Marty explained that a series of spring frosts knocked out much of the apple blossoms last year, dramatically reducing Michigan’s crop to two-thirds of its usual harvest. The Dexter Cider Mill gets most of its apples from orchards north of Grand Rapids from a ridge area famous for producing excellent fruit. Marty estimates that 50 to 60 percent of Michigan’s annual 29 million bushels of apples come from that region.
“This year, however, estimates are showing the Michigan crop to be up around 15 million bushels over last year,” says Marty. “Unfortunately, higher transportation costs will prevent that from lowering the price of cider.”
“I begin pressing apples for hard cider in May,” adds Marty. “We’ll do about seven hundred gallons for that, and then there’s the bottling which is quite time-consuming.”
While Marty is pressing cold-stored apples for hard cider and planning for the current year’s harvest, Nancy focuses on administration and the mill itself.
“We close up and clean up in December,” explains Nancy. “We take January and February off, and then it's back to work. In March, we get everything in order administratively. Come spring, we’re cleaning, painting, and other maintenance. And we try to do one big project a year for the mill.”
So, like most great things, running the Dexter Cider Mill is not as easy as it looks. But few memories are better than getting cider and donuts with your parents/kids/partner/friend. Perhaps it is this nostalgia of simpler times with apples, cider, pumpkins, corn stalks, costumes, and colored trees that have so many of us eager for opening day at the Dexter Cider Mill, the unofficial start of the best time of year.
A couple of things to keep in mind upon your visit to the Dexter Cider Mill:
- They only accept cash or check payments, but an ATM is on site.
- Parking is tight in their lot. But plenty of parking is available within a short distance walk. Refer to the Dexter Cider Mill map at https://www.dextercidermill.com/
to plan ahead.
Photos by Doug Marrin