Jon Dunn is from Berkley, Michigan—it’s at Eleven Mile Road outside Detroit, three miles past Eminem Avenue.
“Where I lived, there were about forty cider mills within an hour’s drive of my house,” Dunn says. “In Michigan, it was a big autumn thing to do, go to the cider mill and have cider and doughnuts. Around here, when I started, there wasn’t much interest in doing that, but for whatever reason we did it anyway.”
That was way back in 1977. Forty-five years later, Dunn’s Cider Mill (17003 State Route D, Belton, MO; 816-331-7214) draws huge lines for cider and doughnuts. Dunn’s doughnuts are fried fresh daily from a cake batter using cinnamon and sugar. They’re good. But the fresh-pressed apple cider is what sets it apart.
Unlike some other mills in the area, Dunn’s juices its apples on-site using a twenty-four-inch hand-operated press that is “pretty small by cider mill standards.” The apples come from a fourth-generation farm outside Waverly, Missouri, which Dunn calls “the best-tasting apples anywhere in the area.” Dunn’s press uses wooden mashers and a stainless steel basin. They use no preservatives or flavorings, and the cider is not pasteurized to remove the ambient yeast that will turn soft kid-friendly cider hard. Dunn’s fresh-pressed apple cider is refrigerated immediately to be sold within three or four days. Fresh-pressed small-batch cider is nothing like what you buy at the grocery store or from larger operations.
“Once they taste it, they’ll know the difference right away,” Dunn says. “We don’t add anything to the cider. We start with tree-picked apples. They are sanitized and washed, and then we rinse them off and they go to the press.”
Dunn’s cider is meant to be drunk right away, but if you’re of a different mindset, you could pour a little off the top, set the jug’s top on loosely and let it ferment in the fridge for about two weeks, as is tradition up in Michigan.