Apples

We have a small orchard (60 dwarf trees, roughly half Honeycrisps, and an onsite cider processing facility that includes an electric apple grinder, a bladder press with a four-bushel apple pomace capacity that produces around three gallons of apple juice per bushel, and a bank of four two-gallon pasteurizers.

We are registered with the State of Indiana as a Wholesale Food Establishment, which permits us to sell our produce to grocery stores and restaurants, and a Farm Winery license, which permits us to sell cider at our farm stand, which is visible lower left beyond the driveway and through the trees.

For your information, our Hazard Analysis and  Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan and the Custom Pressing Section in The Indiana State Department of Health Food Protection Program Guide to Producing Safe Cider are copied on the page after next. The Guide, with which we are in full compliance, can be accessed at in.gov/Apple_Cider_Guide-_-August_2005.

However, we have a bottleneck. Our trees, which were planted in 2016, have been slow to grow and slower to produce. A mature dwarf is expected to produce about four bushels per tree. See how many apples you can count on the apparently healthy tree to the right.

Apples suitable for juicing – and guaranteed not to include drops – cost about $0.25 each retail, or about $20.00/bushel wholesale. This means that a gallon of our juice from outside apples, before processing, costs us upwards of $6.67 to produce. Labor, packaging, storing, and marketing, which pretty much doubles that cost. We can easily compete on taste, but we cannot compete on price with higher volume producers.

What then to do? We would be happy to collaborate with orchards, small or not so small, who have a limited crop or a limited specialty crop (e. g., crab apples) and would find it more convenient and more profitable for us to process their apples (in four bushel lots) into cider, pasteurized or unpasteurized, soft or hard.

So: Here’s the Deal! You get half of the product back, packaged and ready drink, and we keep the other half.

Win-Win?

Indiana Dept. of Health Guidances Regarding Custom Cider Manufacture

Custom Pressing

Some people have apple trees on their property and wish to have apple cider made from these apples. Performing this service has its own risks that must be weighed by the apple cider processor. The liability issues concerning custom pressing cider may far outweigh the benefits to the operator and customer. It is strongly recommended that an apple press operator not process any of their own products on the same day that they offer custom pressing for the following reasons:

  1. Questionable quality of the apples that the customer brings in for processing. This could include the use of “drop”, decayed, and wormy apples, or apples that are stored or treated improperly with pesticides or fungicides.
  2. Potential for contamination carrying over to the next customer. A complete clean up between customers is not always feasible due to the low volume of product each customer has and the time involved.
  3. Customers using their own containers for pressed cider. The quality and sanitary condition of these containers is not known. The press operator should require customers to use new jugs for cider.

If custom pressing is done, it is recommended that a waiver or agreement be signed by the customer each time that includes the following information:

  1. A statement that the customer has followed all appropriate sanitary handling techniques as outlined, i.e., not using drops, properly storing and culling the apples.
  2. The product is intended only for their personal use, and not for sale. (The customer is prohibited from selling the cider)
  3. Information that the product has not been pasteurized or treated.

Carpe Diem Farmming LLC HACCP Plan for Safe Cider & Other Food Production

DATE:  March 15, 2020
RE:  Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan

The First Order hazard to food produced on this farm is environmental contamination by microrganisms, macroorganisms, agricultural chemicals, and fomites (e.g, dirt) that are indigenous and omnipresent in a farm environment.

The Critical Control Point for addressing this hazard is the physical barrier between the farm environment and the enclosed space in which raw foods produced on the farm are disinfected, processed, and stored.

The Standard by which this physical barrier will be measured is adherence to all State and Federal regulations, including but not limited to adherence to any and all Standard Operating Procedures established by Carpe Diem Farming LLC that are applicable to a specific product (e. g., maple syrup, honey, apple cider) being produced. On occasion these Standard Operating Procedures will apply to specific agricultural products (e. g., apples) produced elsewhere and imported to the farm for processing and subsequent distribution.

The Second Order hazard to food produced on this farm is failure to adhere to Standard Operating Procedures during the production of foods within the physical barriers of the production facility.

The Critical Control Points for addressing this hazard are 1) assuring that these Standard Operating Procedures conform to all applicable State and Federal regulations and 2) assuring that these Standard Operating Procedures have been followed.

The Standard by which adherence to these procedures will be measured is real-time documentation that these standards have in fact been adhered to. Source documents for may be either a check list or notations in a notebook maintained during a processing of a crop. Since processing of a crop (e. g., maple syrup) may take several days between harvesting, processing, packaging, “real time” may extend to 48 hours from before the processing has begun to after the processing has been completed and a report form has been filed.

The Third Order hazard to food produced on thus farm is unforeseen circumstances.

The Critical Control Point for addressing this hazard is situational awareness.

The Standard by which situational awareness will be the interval of time between when, in retrospect, the hazard was first present and the time at which the hazard was first a) recognized and b) addressed. The interval between presence and recognition can only be used as a guide to subsequent awareness. The interval between recognition and response, however, can be used, albeit qualitatively more so than quantitatively, as a measure of institutional capacity.

Barley, Buckwheat, Clover

This fall we planted five acres of a premium winter barley, Limagrain Violetta, the green in the picture at right. We will harvest it in mid-June 2021 and rotate the land with a short summer crop of buckwheat. We will harvest the buckwheat in early September and plant a winter clover, and then a summer buckwheat, a fall barley, and so on.

The advantage to us of winter barley, in addition to its aesthetic and, since it is an annual grass, winter soil protective value, is that we can use our hops processing facility in the spring, when it is otherwise not in use, to dry, malt, dry again, mill, vacuum pack, and store the dry, milled malt to sell in conjunction with our hops. Fresh harvested but unprocessed barley is not a preservable or profitable crop, but fresh harvested, malted, milled, and appropriately packaged barley can be.

The agricultural idea is that while barley is a grass, and clover is a legume, buckwheat is its own genus, and therefore good for crop rotation. The commercial idea is that the summer flowers of the buckwheat should produce a fall buckwheat honey and a buckwheat pancake flour. Buckwheat honey on buckwheat pancakes makes an unbeatable Sunday brunch, with or without a Mimosa or a pumpkin spiced latte. As an Indiana Wholesale Food Establishment, we would like to market this combination to local groceries and restaurants, as well as to folks who prefer the more leisurely pace of Sunday brunch at home (and don’t mind doing the dishes).

If any of our neighbors are interested in growing winter barley simply for its aesthetic and soil protective values, particularly in five acre or so lots (which is the daily capacity of our processing line) and having us harvest and process it, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Grapes

Our goal when we started our farm was to grow and sell a damn good wine grape, either fresh from our vines or aged in our bottles.

In the spring of 2016 we planted 80 Corot Noir and 80 Traminette one year old saplings. Corot Noir (a red) and Traminette (a white) are cold hardy hybrid wine grapes developed at Cornell. Traminette is the Indiana State Wine. In December 2016 the temperature fell to -23 F. To our pleasant surprise, our grapes survived.

So, in spring of 2017, we expanded our vineyard to 240 Corot Noir and 240 Traminette, and added 240 Frontenac Blanc whites, 240 La Crescent whites, and 120 Frontenac reds, 120 Landot reds, and 120 Leon Millot reds. The Frontenacs and the La Crescent were developed at the University of Minnesota. Landot and Leon Millot have complex ancestries.

Our vineyard is oriented north-south to take advantage of our terrain and our prevailing winds. All our grapes are eight vines to a row, 8 feet apart, and 12 feet between rows. We have 11 plots of 120 vines per plot, 24 feet between each plot. Almost all of these 1320 vines survived the January 2019 low temperature of -22F. We hope 2021 will be the year that the promise of these grapes will be fulfilled.

We have learned the hard way that waiting to spray for Anthracnose, Botrytis Bunch Rot, and their numerous ilk to cause damage above a hypothetical economic injury threshold is not a good idea, because by then it is too late to save the crop. We now follow the recommendations of experts at Indiana University, Michigan State University, and the University of Minnesota, all of whom have been most helpful to us, personally as well as through their publications.

At or near 1200 degree-growing-days, usually in the middle of July, we make an estimate of what our crop will be. We invite those who may be interested in purchasing our grapes, fresh or freshly pressed, to contact us (and, if they wish, visit us) at that time.

Our on-site winery has the capacity to wash, de-stem, crush, press, and begin to ferment the fruit from 120 of our vines in a day, which by design is about as much as we can harvest in a busy early morning and process before the day ends. This gives us the capacity to harvest when best for an individual plot. This year we will prune our clusters at mid-year so that each vine will yield just a bit more than one gallon (about 10 pounds) of grapes per vine.

We have recently received a Farm Winery License from the State of Indiana. Wines produced on our property will be for sale in 2021 at our farm stand, and at a competitive price. We will bottle some of each grape individually, and experiment with blending them. You may wish to do the same.

Our trademark is Cotes de La Porte®. We hope you will smile at the trademark, be attracted by the label, and like what you find inside.

This picture BTW is from pre-Covid-19 2019.

The grapes from our cold-hardy varietals produce lighter, dryer wines than some customers may desire, and they do not stand up to chapitation, which is adding sugar to make the wine sweeter, more alcoholic, or both. Our first attempt at blending – 60% Frontenac, 40% Corot Noir – was a pleasant surprise, and that is a direction we will be pursuing. If others have interest in exploring blending, particularly with grapes other than our own, we would be particularly interested in speaking with you.

Hops

In 2017 we built a 1000-bine hops yard and a hops processing facility capable of harvesting and processing 125 bines per day.

Neighbors will recall that we put solar fence lights on top of the hundred poles that supported the bines, giving it the appearance that one neighbor described as “a runway for UFOs”.

The lights only lasted for one year. The hops lasted for two, but in 2019 they were all destroyed by downy mildew. We did what we had to do, which was to tear out the entire yard and start all over. We did that last fall and this spring.

We now have 125 Cascade, 125 Crystal, 125 Hallertauer, 125 Kirin, and 250 Mackinac and 250 Michigan Copper. All, but particularly the last two, did quite well this past summer – so well, in fact, that we may have limited supplies of them this coming fall.

Meanwhile, our hops processing facility remains fully operational. We have a Hopster® hops harvester, and now, if necessary, a trailer that can transport it to a location within 50 miles of our farm. We can process about one bine per minute, or 125 bines in two hours; setup and cleanup add 30 minutes at each end.

Our goal is to get the hops, ours or someone else’s, into our dryer, by 10:30 am or before the ambient temperature reaches 85 F, whichever comes first. 85 F is the point at which aroma starts to evaporate. Our dryer can reduce the water content of 125 freshly harvested hops from 80% to 20% in 8 hours.

Overnight, we spread the partially dried hops on to the floor of a 8 x 8 x 4’ four person Arctic Tent (just off-camera to the upper left) with two dehumidifiers. By the following morning, the water content of the crop is down to 8%.

At that point we run the dried hops through our Colorado Mill Equipment milling machine (left) and then our Colorado Mill Equipment pelletizer (right).

The pelletizer has a liquid nitrogen feeder (seen through the mesh as the golden bronze fitting above the darker fenestrated sprayer) that bathes the pelletizer die to keep it, and the hops as they are being compressed, well below 85 F.

We put a specified number of pellets in each bag using a pharmaceutical pill counter. This assures that each bag has at least its declared weight.

We then seal each package with a vacuum bag sealer that has nitrogen purge capacity, and then store them in our freezer (on which these instruments sit) until purchase or use.

The customer we hope to find would be a home or a microbrewer, either of whom might be interested in blending our hops with other varieties. Because those customers, and for that matter the broader public, may not be familiar with all these hops, we have applied for a Small Brewery License. With this we will be able to sell six bottles of a single style (for example, IPA), each made with a different one of our six hops ,and all using our own Limagrain Violetta barley.

Meanwhile, if any local hops growers or dealers would be interested in our harvesting and/or processing capabilities, particularly for extra surge capacity at harvest time or for the smaller number of a specialty hop (for which our processing has been specifically scaled), we would be happy to hear from you.

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