Chow Town

Forget sports, it’s apple picking, cider drinking time

Cider Hill Family Orchard is in Kansas City, Kan.
Cider Hill Family Orchard is in Kansas City, Kan. Special to The Star

This past Sunday was a big day in Kansas City.

The American Royal barbecue was going on. NASCAR was in town for the biggest race of the year in Kansas, the Kansas City Chiefs were playing the San Francisco 49ers on TV and our beloved Kansas City Royals were playing postseason baseball at the K.

But it was an early morning and mid-day adventure of apple cider, cider doughnuts and apple-picking that was on this chef’s mind.

I did a little research during the week and found an apple orchard in Kansas City, Kan., that sounded very interesting, so I definitely put Cider Hill Family Orchard on my adventure menu for the day.

But first, a Sunday morning in the fall would not be the same without a stop for local cider doughnuts and, of course, fresh apple cider from Dunn’s Cider Mill in Belton, right across from Loch Lloyd Country Club off Missouri 150.

We arrived at Dunn’s Cider Mill to many familiar faces waiting in line, out the door for the oh-so-warm and famous cider doughnuts. The Dunn family has been making cider doughnuts since 1977.

The whole family is behind the counter, making the doughnuts, placing hundreds of them on trays trying to keep up with the demand, and working the cash register. I saw Mr. Dunn and said a quick hello as I paid for my doughnuts and cider for the family.

I had already contacted my nieces and great nieces and their mothers to meet us at the cider mill, so they were anxiously waiting for the warm doughnuts and cider as I came out of the barn door.

They had already reserved a picnic table, and our cider adventure had begun. This was not my first rodeo, so I passed out the doughnuts to the children, sat back and watched their faces as they each took their first bite. Talk about precious.

After about 30 minutes of visiting and mapping out our next adventure, we went back to our cars and traveled just 30 minutes, a little bit past the NASCAR racetrack, and arrived off the highway to about 10 cars waiting in line at 139th Street in Kansas City, Kan. Cider Hill Family Orchard opens at noon, and we made it just in time.

We parked our car and walked up the hill past the Victorian style house to the general store, where a member of the family was passing out bags for collecting apples. We were given instructions and shown different baskets of various apples that were available to pick.

The young girl also told us there are 950 apple trees on the property, and they have 18 types of apples, but only four were available to pick that day. They actually start picking in late July.

We were led to a big red tractor known as the Apple Wagon and given a hayride into the orchards that took just a few minutes. We all jumped off the wagon and immediately walked up to the bountiful apple trees and started picking.

We walked through the apple orchard filling our bags and searching for different apple trees. After about 30 minutes, with our bags overfilled, the Apple Wagon came back and picked us up, dropping off new pickers.

As we rode up Cider Hill, we noticed that the parking lot had more than 150 cars and more than 200 people already gathered, waiting to take a hayride through the orchards for their own apple picking.

Once you’re finished picking apples, Cider Hill also has a pumpkin patch to pick a pumpkin from and an area for a picnic lunch.

They also have a grilled lunch on the weekends. The store sells everything from fresh apple cider and apple butter to kettle corn, cider doughnuts and homemade preserves.

This is one adventure that should not be missed. Two great places to make some memories and, of course, a fun time for the whole family.

I returned home and had a hard time choosing what recipes I would cook with the delicious local apples. But I finally decided on some simple apple dumplings to enjoy with the cider. I hope you enjoy the recipe I am sharing with you. Enjoy the Apple Trail.

Dunn’s Cider Mill is at 17003 Missouri Route D in Belton. It is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday until Thanksgiving.

Cider Hill Family Orchard is at 3341 N. 139th St. in Kansas City, Kan. It is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays to the end of October.

Apple Dumplings

4 local apples

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 ounces butter

2 10-ounce cans crescent roll dough

12 ounces of 7 Up

Core apples. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. Dust the apples with a little of the cinnamon and sugar. Place a piece of butter on each top and wrap each apple with crescent roll dough.

Place wrapped apples in a well-greased pan. Pour 7 Up on bottom of pan. Dust apples with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden.

Melt remaining butter and mix with remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture. Drizzle over dumplings and serve.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.