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Northern Indiana orchard juices a prize-winning cider
Indiana Correspondent

DENVER, Ind. — On a scale of 1-10, with one being small and 10 being large, Steve Doud ranks his 102-year-old orchard as tiny. But when it comes to pressing cider, he usually leads the field.

Judged on the basis of appearance, aroma, flavor, body, sweetness, tartness, balance and overall quality characteristics, Doud Orchards’ prize-winning cider is a blend of as many as 10 varieties of chopped and squeezed apples produced the traditional rack and cloth press method. Containing no preservatives, it is unfiltered, unclarified, unsweetened, unpasteurized and uncomplicated.

And therein lies a problem for Doud and other small producers who feel they are being pressed out of the market by conglomerates and foreign producers making cider based on concentrates and laced with additives.

“You have to go to an orchard farm market to get good cider,” Doud said. “That mass-produced stuff is barely drinkable.”

“There’s a growing trend in this country to go big or get out,” he said as he sat on a ledge in his farm market, a renovated one-room school located 10 miles north of Peru on State Road 19. “Many believe that most states will have no more than three cider producers, but others of us are bucking that trend. We feel it’s still possible to produce a lot of value on a small, traditional farm.”

Small and traditional, adjectives that defined the Doud operation when it started in 1894, apply four generations later to today’s Doud Orchards. Steve and Connie Doud purchased and incorporated the 50-acre orchard in 1994 and later added an additional 35 acres on which they grow 50 varieties of apples. Steve’s 91-year-old father, Lorne, the third generation of his family to operate the orchard and a frequent visitor, recently pitched in to narrate tours.

With apple growing in their genes, Steve Doud and his siblings, all graduates of Purdue University, continue to swap and share. Steve presses cider for his brother’s orchard near Roann. His sister, a member of the faculty at Ohio State University, provided grafts for two of his trees verified to have come from stock originally planted by legendary Johnny Appleseed.

“No one has an original tree planted by Johnny Appleseed,” Doud said, “because apples trees don’t live much longer than 90 years, and Johnny’s been dead since 1845.”

It would come as a surprise to the redoubtable Appleseed (real name John Chapman), who planted hundreds of trees in Indiana and Ohio, that there is a dwindling number of small orchard cider makers, or that there are so many regulations.

“We do everything we can to make a good product,” Doud said. “We sanitize. Each of our cider jugs is carefully labeled, cautioning users to keep the cider refrigerated.”

In addition, each jug, in compliance with federal guidelines, has a warning label stating that the unpasteurized product could contain bacteria that could cause illness in children, the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system.

Until mandated to pasteurize their product, the Douds plan to continue doing what they do best - making championship cider - and selling it in their farm market.

While the market is open year-round, they fill October, their busiest month, with tour groups, antique tractor shows and hayrides in addition to picking, packing, retailing and wholesaling the last of the year’s crop that normally ranges between 12,000 and 13,000 bushels.

“We usually average having a couple thousand school kids visit every year,” Doud said. “We like to give them a taste of good cider and let them see how a small business operates.”

But they won’t be giving out the recipe for their cider. “We kind of blend it as we go,” he said. “Some yellow apples, some red apples, some tart apples, some sweet apples until we get the right taste, feel and appearance.”

This farm news was published in the Oct. 18, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.