The Evaporated Fruit Industry in Wayne County

Source: Fifty-fifth Annual Report of the New York State Agricultural Society for the Year 1895. Albany and New York: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. 1896. pp. 704-708

The Evaporated Fruit Industry in Wayne County

By J. B. Case, Sodus, N.Y.

I often think of a story told here in a number of years since by our lamented Major Brooks, about a certain Mr. Jones who owned a very fine wether, this wether being noted for the extra long, fine and heavy fleece of wool which he grew each year for the financial benefit and pardonable pride of his owner. Mr. Jones, like most Americans, became avaricious and undertook to produce more wool at a less cost, regardless of quality. He took him from the clover meadow and turned him into an old slashing, which was overgrown with burdocks, stick-tights, and various other weeds which got into his wool. The grass was long, thin and dry. The wether could only get enough feed to just keep himself alive. Had nothing to spare to put into his wool. When winter came Mr. Jones gave the wether a straw sack instead of his former allowance of good clover, hay and corn. When he took off the wether's fleece in the spring, after figuring how cheaply the animal had been kept, he took the fleece to market, congratulating himself on how much more clear profit he was going to get from his wether than on former years. We all know the sequel: More weight on account of dirt and burs; less price on account of poor quality; then shrunk one-third on account of dirt and burs.

Evaporator men of western New York how does this story fit us? Green, worthless apples, just fairly out of bloom, half-pared, poorly trimmed, overdosed with brimstone, full of cores, improperly cured. How would each one of us like to eat such fruit? Doubtless many of us here to-day have seen just such fruit in our neighbors' evaporators. Of course we never made any such fruit. We belong to the Western New York Horticultural Society, where we are taught that "with what measure we mete it shall be measured to us again," or in other words, good, ripe apples, neatly and properly prepared, will be sure to increase the demand for them, and sooner or later will redound to our glory and again replenish "our once fat pocketbook."

It has done me good to see our local dealers send team after team back home again with loads of this worthless stuff this last season. Also to see the stand taken by all of the evaporated-apple dealers "not to buy nor handle any apples that are not up to standard in quality and dryness."

We are prepared to say that we are willing to grow apples, evaporate them, pack them in fifty-pound cases and deliver them to railroad station at five to seven cents per pound (we prefer, understand, that the price should be seven cents). But now the question arises to many of us, where can we find people to eat them? We can't eat all of them; there are too many.

If the evaporator men of western New York (dealers and all) would practice the "golden rule," or would transpose it and make it read, "prepare and evaporate apples for others to eat as ye would that others should prepare and evaporate apples for you to eat," and then live up to it, we would soon establish a demand for evaporated apples that would take our entire product at prices that would pay us a good living profit.

Any person who has ever read Emerson's essay on "Recompense," and who has an interest in the future place, that evaporated apples shall occupy in the dried-fruit strife for prominence, can not stand idly by and see such apples evaporated and sent into the market to be consumed by people in whom we wish to see developed a demand for more.

In 1893, when, in August, we had the heavy storm throughout the country, there were thousands of bushels of apples blown off in western New York. These apples were only about two-thirds grown, not fit for any purpose; not even fit to fed to hogs. Still these apples were gathered and evaporated, and about fifty carloads or 125,000 pounds of these immature apples were sent into the markets. No wonder evaporated apples were cheap in 1894, and not high in 1895. The people who got such apples were not going to buy any more evaporated apples of any kind. They will take prunes, apricots and peaches instead.

I tell you, gentlemen, we who are interested in western New York evaporated fruits, can learn many valuable lessons from California fruit men. While we have the advantage of best fruit when our fruit is properly ripened, California fruit men have the advantage of being thoroughly neat and businesslike in their methods of drying and packing their fruits for market.

If we wish to hold the position that western New York evaporated apples have attained in the markets of the world, we must put out a uniformly better article. We must use nothing but ripe fruit. We must pare better, core better, trim and slice our apples better. We must insist that the bleaching process be done properly. Also that the evaporating and curing shall be sufficient to insure that the fruit shall keep in warm weather.

The culture and evaporating of black and red raspberries is steadily increasing. Of the product of 1894, Wayne county shipped over 1,000,000 pounds of dried berries. The old saying, "good as wheat in the bin," which was in common use twenty-five years ago, no longer expresses the sentiments of our farmers. Good as dried apples in the box, or dried berries in the barrel would be much more comprehensive. Years ago, during low prices, our forehanded farmers would hold their crop of wheat year after year, waiting for a war scare, or some other calamity to boom the price. Now as wheat is no longer king and the fruit business is, our forehanded people show the same disposition. That is, when dried apples or berries are low in price, to keep them year after year. Berries seem to keep all right, if, when thoroughly dry, they are put in new, tight barrels and stored in any cool, dry place. Evaporated apples, in order to held their color, must be packed in boxes and put into cold storage by or before May first, and kept in a cold, dry temperature till wanted for use.

I examined recently a case of evaporated apples which I made in 1891, and which has been in cold storage since February, 1892. These apples seemed to be as fine as when they were first made. From the small Marion drier of twenty-five years ago, driers of different styles have developed, varying in capacity from five bushels to 500 bushels per day. Some of the evaporator plants are very complete, having the latest improved machinery to do nearly all of the work, while others are very crude. It does not seem to be any particular kind of drier that makes fruit that will grade as choice or fancy. But it does take a very particular kind of a man, and sometimes that man is a woman.

In most of our evaporators the machinery is run by hand and foot power. We have a few where the machinery is entirely run by steam power. The driers that meet with general approval in Wayne county may be divided into four classes, viz.: The hot-air upright tower; hot-air lay-down flue; hop-kiln; steam drier.

All of these styles do good work. The hot-air upright tower makes the finest fruit as a rule. The hop-kiln is the cheapest drier to run. That is, a certain number of bushels of apples can be evaporated for a less expense in a hop-kiln than in any other kind of drier that is in use in our county. Evaporated apples are now classified in the markets as fancy, choice, prime and poor to common.

There are no evaporated apples made in our section that will grade as fancy in Boston. We make a limited amount that will grade as fancy in New York, Chicago and the West. Probably about one-sixth of our product will grade as choice in any of the markets, while fully five-eighths of the entire product will grade as prime.

We again divide the prime into two grades, wood-dried prime and wire-dried prime. This division is caused by the law passed by the German government forbidding the importation of any dried apples unless accompanied by a chemist's certificate certifying that the apples are free from any trace of zinc. In order to comply with this demand a certain amount is being dried on wood. When Germany is buying quite freely, there frequently is a difference of one-fourth of a cent a pound between wood and wire-dried fruit of the same grade.

The subject of the evaporated fruit industry carried me back in memory to the time when I attended school at our academy. Then my stint every day was to pare three bushels of apples every morning and every evening during the fall term, my father then being the envy of the neighborhood, as he owned a "dry-house" that would dry six to eight bushels per day. It was then beneath the dignity of a farmer to spend his valuable time drying apples. Such puttering work must be done by the women and children. He had corn to husk, potatoes to dig, apples to pick and barrel - work of much more importance in those days. These dried apples always belonged to the women and children and were sold to the country stores, generally half trade and half cash.

I look back in pride yet as I see in memory a much desired suit of clothes, a new shirt and collar, a new cap and shoes that were secured in exchange for dried apples that my mother and I had dried. Upon inquiry I find that at about the time above mentioned, there were from two to four carloads of dried-apples shipped from Sodus each year. The business has developed to that extent so that the product of 1894 Sodus alone shipped 7,500,000 pounds of evaporated apples, while northern Wayne shipped over 15,000,000 pounds.

Note: a "wether" is a neutered male sheep.

Read more on this site about the history of Wayne County's fruit growing and processing industry in History of Alton NY Canning Factory.

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Created: 1/29/06
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