KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU, on the Campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, this is Earth Eats.
ERIC SCHEDLER: The recipe that we're making, makes two, small, 12 ounce challahs.We found, in our house, that if the challah's too big, then the kids only eat challah for dinner. So, [LAUGHS] we like to make them small and serve only half. [LAUGHS]
KAYTE YOUNG: This week, on the show, we're celebrating five years with me, Kayte Young, at the helm of Earth Eats. We're taking a look back at some favorite shows. One about making beer, from fresh, local hops; one about making challah with Muddy Fork Bakery; and we venture back to the days of Annie Corrigan as host, with her story about a beloved persimmon tree. All that, and more, just ahead. Stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG: Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. Veterinarian clinics, in rural communities, have been dramatically declining in numbers for decades. Rural veterinarians often get paid less than urban practitioners, take on more workload, and carry thousands of dollars in debt, from medical school. Harvest Public Media's, Xcaret Nuñez, reports on why attracting veterinarians to rural areas remains a problem and what's being done to fix it.
SERENA HALL: Come on, Thea! Come on, sweets!
XCARET NUÑEZ: On a rainy, Saturday morning, Doctor [PHONETIC: Serena] Hall welcomes Thea, a German Shepherd mix, and her owner, Becky, 9am, on the dot, at the Perry Veterinary Hospital, in Perry, Oklahoma.
SERENA HALL: Let's see what things look like.
XCARET NUÑEZ: Hall started working at the clinic, straight out of veterinary school, six years ago. She's a mixed animal practitioner, which means she works on both small animals like dogs and large animals like cattle. Hall is one of two doctors, that works at the small town clinic, where the work days get busy and she's constantly shifting gears.
SERENA HALL: I mean, there have been days that I'm doing a euthanasia in one room, and just like a standard appointment, whether that be vaccines with another dog, literally in another room, and then have cattle out back. I mean, there's days I feel like I'm just running in circles.
XCARET NUÑEZ: On top of that work stress, Hall has more than $100,000 of veterinary and school debt. It's one of the factors that's contributed to the decline of rural vets in the US since World War Two. Doctor Daniel Grooms is the Dean of Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2019, he and two students surveyed clinics across Iowa, to understand the shortage, and found pay in rural clinics is a big problem.
DANIEL GROOMS: Typically, rural practices have lower salaries than practices that are located in more populated areas.
XCARET NUÑEZ: The average amount of debt veterinarians come out of medical school with is nearly $200,000, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Since 2010, the US Department of Agriculture has offered a loan repayment program aimed at rural vets. Today, that program offers up to $75,000, to help veterinarians offset their loans, if they spend three years in a rural clinic. But that's less than half of today's average loan debt for graduating veterinarians, which officials, at the USDA, acknowledge.
ROBERT SMITH: It's being considered.
XCARET NUÑEZ: Doctor Robert Smith oversees the repayment program and says there's talk of increasing the amount they give out.
ROBERT SMITH: You know, we have the ability to consider that.
XCARET NUÑEZ: But even if more money becomes available, earning the repayment isn't easy. Last year, 144 veterinarians applied and just over half got the award. That's, in part, because the program only gives money to one veterinarian in a designated area of need, and Smith says the application process can also be intimidating.
ROBERT SMITH: Practitioners are not used to writing grants, and so we like to prove some kind of coaching, or mentoring, or to work with them on putting together a better application.
XCARET NUÑEZ: But other problems are working at a more local level, to relieve the debt load for rural veterinarians. Doctor Brad White is the Director of Kansas State University's Beef Cattle Institute. He says a case day program has helped rural practices attract and retain veterinarian grads.
BRAD WHITE: Over the past about 15 years of that program, we know that about 90% of those students are still in rural practice.
XCARET NUÑEZ: The state-funded program will forgive up to $80,000 in student loan debt, for veterinarians who stay in rural Kansas for several years and, White says, that's important so that there are vets who can help livestock producers keep their animals healthy. He hopes other veterinary schools adopt similar programs to Kansas states.
XCARET NUÑEZ: Back at the Perry Animal Hospital, Dr Serena says being a veterinarian is all she's ever wanted to do.
SERENA HALL: I mean, I love the profession, I love what I do. It's really pretty crazy to look at the debt load that it takes to get there.
XCARET NUÑEZ: For now, she says, she's committed to working in the rural clinic. For Harvest Public Media, I'm Xcaret Nuñez.
KAYTE YOUNG: Earth Eats, partners with Harvest Public Media to bring you reports on food and farming in the heartland. Find more, at HarvestPublicMedia.org.
KAYTE YOUNG: It's fundraising time here at WFIU, and we're also celebrating five years, with yours truly as the host of Earth Eats. Now, I know some of you probably still miss Annie Corrigan. I can relate, I miss her too. When I took over the show, in 2017, I was nervous. Annie is a tough act to follow, and this week we're taking a look back at a favorite story, featuring persimmons. Here's Annie Corrigan, Earth Eat's founder, and former host. This story is from 2015.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Louise Briggs has a beautiful patio behind her house. It's a tidy space, except for a pair of Adirondack chairs that are stacked with ten gallon plastic bins and the lids. She and I are sitting at a table, in the early evening; her dogs are roaming around the yard. We rotate to face the gigantic persimmon tree in the middle of the yard like it's our entertainment for the evening. The footprint of the tree is surrounded by a net, propped up with several, 6ft poles. Louise sounds like a proud parent when she talks about her "giving tree".
LOUISE BRIGGS: It's silent, once it hits the net. The adorable sound is it hitting leaves, as it goes down. Yeah, yeah, yeah, like a pinball machine. My persimmon pinball machine.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: She smiles and points at fruit way at the top of the tree, like a strand of orange Christmas lights. Those fruit will fall soon enough. This is the first year she's enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching persimmons drop from the tree, because all this tree used to mean to her was a lot of work, and that's where I come in.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: When the fruit started dropping this year, she was in the middle of a home improvement project. It was the week before Labor Day.
LOUISE BRIGGS: And so, when the persimmons came early, and came fast, I was kind of behind the eight ball.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: And then you wrote me. So, what were you thinking, when you shot off that email to Earth Eats? What did you think was going to happen?
LOUISE BRIGGS: I was hoping that you might be my link to the community. And when I heard your voicemail, I almost cried, [LAUGHS] because I really had decided that I didn't want to do it this year. I just wanted a year off.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Let's back up. Louise and her husband, Bob, moved to Southern Indiana in the winter of 2010. After renting for a bit, they found this house, that was a bit small but in the perfect location, and the price was right.
LOUISE BRIGGS: The Realtor said to me, "Oh, and there's a persimmon tree in the backyard too." I'm from Boston. [LAUGHS] What do I know from persimmons, you know? So, we just went about our business, went through the winter, and when it came towards spring, I decided I should start looking up persimmons, you know, and see what kind of tree this was. And so, the distinctive thing about persimmon tree is that the bark is shaped like tiles, it said. So, the striations go up and down, but they also go sideways, kind of splitting it into little pieces.
LOUISE BRIGGS: Springtime, I was out, you know, cleaning up the yard and stuff, I said, well let me just look around, and see which of these trees is the persimmon tree, because there were lots of trees in the yard. So, I went from tree to tree. "No, not that one. No, not that one. No, not that one." And I looked at the big one, right in the middle of the yard, and I thought, surely not that one? So, I walked over to the tree, and looked at the bark, and it was totally perfect. It was picture perfect. It looked just like the pictures in the book.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: That 60-footer. That fall, the persimmons came quickly.
LOUISE BRIGGS: We knew we had to net them, because over the course of a few weeks, my little dog became a pudgie little dog, and I kept cutting back on his food, thinking I'm feeding him too much, and then we realized, we looked out in the back, and when we put him out he'd be out there eating persimmons, which are high calorie, and he was having a good time.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: She wasn't just going to throw away the fruit that fell into the net, she knew she had something special on her hands. So, she spent a couple of hours every day, in the fall, collecting persimmons in those ten gallon bins, removing the caps and cleaning off the leaves. It was a chore.
LOUISE BRIGGS: On a rainy day, when the wind blows and a ton of persimmons fall, and I've got four bins of persimmons and they're all covered with wet leaves, which means they're harder to clean and all that kind of stuff.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Every couple of weeks, she would throw a perpetual persimmon pulping party, where friends would help her process the fruit into two-cup bags. She then sold the pulp to friends and businesses around town. She gave all the proceeds to the non-profit organization, Kites Global. Last year's haul, by the numbers, almost 40 ten gallon bins of fruit harvested, processed into 110 two-cup portions. The thought of doing all that work again this year? No way.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Anybody mind dogs?
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: We love dogs.
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: I love the little dogs, hi!
ANNIE CORRIGAN: After I received Louise's plea for help, I put out the word: "Free persimmons to anyone willing to do the work." A handful of people showed up that first day. Lisa and [PHONETIC: Chrisanne] came with buckets; Amy and Kate came in work clothes; Alice was on her bike; and Earth Eats intern Katie Greble and I came with recording equipment and microphones.
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: Hello, doggies! [LAUGHS]
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Louise gave us all a tutorial on the net. "Push the fruit from the various parts of the net, to the center."
LOUISE BRIGGS: So, just go under. Lift it on over.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: "Pull down two of the poles to reveal a hole in the net."
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: Oh, it smells so good!
UNKNOWN MALE SPEAKER: Look at that!
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: It's beautiful.
LOUISE BRIGGS: Here they go!
UNKNOWN MALE SPEAKER: It's almost pudding.
LOUISE BRIGGS: And then you get the next bunch.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: These persimmons are perfect. Squishy and a dark orange. In the kitchen, we take turns pulling off the caps and rinsing the fruit.
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: It's very, very sweet and delicious, and the dark ones are caramelized and perfect. These are awesome.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Once they're cleaned, it's over to Louise's motorized food mill.
LOUISE BRIGGS: So, this is your high-tech lesson. Got everything lined up now. I haven't done this in a year, so.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: The pulp oozes out one side; the seeds and the skin splurt out the other.
LOUISE BRIGGS: I know, it's fabulous, isn't it?
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: It is! [LAUGHS]
LOUISE BRIGGS: That's even more, yes.
UNKNOWN FEMALE SPEAKER: I really need to, like, push it harder. Keep it moving?
LOUISE BRIGGS: Just keep pushing, yeah.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: We all leave with some pulp to make pudding, and bread, and donut glaze. There's plenty more where this came from, Louise tells us. Every day, for the next several weeks, someone from the community will come and take her persimmons away. Some will make beer. Someone wanted to convert a waffle recipe, to include persimmons. We heard of a vegan pudding recipe. And Louise couldn't be happier.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Back on the porch, I couldn't help but ask...
ANNIE CORRIGAN: Do you regret buying this house, with this tree and the responsibility that comes with it?
LOUISE BRIGGS: [LAUGHS] I won't say that I haven't had moments. [LAUGHS] But no, I would miss it. I would really miss it.
ANNIE CORRIGAN: And then, swish, swish, swish, goes another persimmon pinball, plummeting from the tree down to the net. Thanks to Louise Briggs for telling her story. Listen to it again in this weeks podcast, posted at EarthEats.org.
KAYTE YOUNG: One of the things I love about that piece, is that it's a story about community. Louise was facing a problem - too many persimmons - and a group of people, most of whom she did not know, showed up to help. In helping her, they walked away with something for themselves: persimmons.
KAYTE YOUNG: It reminds me of what happens during our fun drives, here at WFIU. The community shows up for us with pledges of support, and they walk away with all of the great programming we provide every day: the news, with Morning Edition, All Things Considered, the WFIU news team, the BBC; and all of the programs that go in-depth, to help you understand the events of the day; plus the great music and storytelling, arts and culture; and food shows, like Earth Eats and The Splendid Table.
KAYTE YOUNG: It's the epitome of a win-win situation and it's also part of what it means to live in a community. We help each other out. You can join the community by pledging your support at 800 6623311 or by visiting WFIU.org/donate.
KAYTE YOUNG: Kayte Young here. This is Earth Eats. The first night of Rosh Hashanah is approaching. September 25th. It seems like a good time to hear from Eric Schedler, of Muddy Fork Bakery, about how they make their holiday bread. This story first aired in October of 2019.
ERIC SCHEDLER: I'm Eric Schedler. I'm the owner and baker of Muddy Fork Bakery. Today, we're going to make some challas. Challah is a traditional, slightly sweet, egg bread for the Jewish Sabbath, and typically it's eaten in the home, on a Friday night or at any kind of Jewish holiday. Any holiday at all, there's always challah, except Passover. It's usually done in a three or four-strand braid, and it's got egg-wash on top, and it looks shiny and, and golden, and pretty.
ERIC SCHEDLER: I use filtered water to make the bread. So, then I heat some in a kettle, and mix it with the cold, and see what we have here.
ERIC SCHEDLER: That looks pretty good. I'm actually going to throw two eggs in the bucket of warm water, to warm them up. I didn't think to bring the eggs to room temperature. Without cracking them! [LAUGHS]
KAYTE YOUNG: By "throw" I think you mean, "gently set".
ERIC SCHEDLER: Okay, so make the challah dough, we're going to do it in a few different steps. So, we want to hydrate the yeast in the water. We have to crack a couple of eggs, and measure it out, because it's not going to be two full eggs, to make the dough, this size. Then we're going to mix up the dry ingredients together, which is flour, sugar and salt. I'm going to start with the yeast, so it'll have a moment to sit.
ERIC SCHEDLER: This is going to take 128g of water.
ERIC SCHEDLER: It doesn't have to be to the gram, within a couple of grams is fine. And more yeast than you would put in some other doughs, because an enriched dough that has a significant amount of fat in the dough that inhibits the action of the yeast, so you have to add a little more. And it's also a really stiff dough, and that also slows down the fermentation.
ERIC SCHEDLER: So, this dough needs 5g of yeast, which is about half a tablespoon. That's going to take a minute so, while that's sitting, I'm going to measure out flour, sugar and salt. For making challah, if you can, you want to use bread flour as opposed to all purpose flour. A little bit stronger gluten structure in the bread flour is going to be helpful, because that oil in the dough, is going to counteract against the gluten development.
ERIC SCHEDLER: And I recommend against using any kind of bleached flour. Bleaching, the reason for it is actually not to make the flour look white, it's done as an artificial way of aging the flour. Because white flour changes as it ages, and the gluten ponds are stronger once it's aged a little bit. Space is money, so it's cheaper to not have a bunch of warehouse space where your flour can age and oxidize. It's cheaper to artificially oxidize it by bleaching.
ERIC SCHEDLER: Alright, here's the sugar. It's the closest thing I have to white sugar.
KAYTE YOUNG: How much sugar is that?
ERIC SCHEDLER: This is 32g of sugar. Professional bakers use percentages to measure their ingredients. So, in that system, called Bakers Math, the total flour counts as a 100%. So, your recipe adds up to more than a 100%, because the flour is already 100. The sugar, in this recipe, is 8%, so it's definitely a noticeable amount of sugar, and you can't use a lot more than that in yeasted bread, without causing it to burn, when you bake it.
ERIC SCHEDLER: Then we'll put some salt in, 8g, which is a little bit less than two teaspoons. Alright, I'm going to check the yeast. It looks pretty dissolved, but I'm going to whisk it, just to make sure that it's all hydrated before I start throwing a bunch of other ingredients on it. Okay, so we've got our water and yeast dissolved, and our dry ingredients measured out, so let's add the oil to the water and yeast.
ERIC SCHEDLER: This dough has 30g of olive oil in it which, as a percentage, is 7.5%.
ERIC SCHEDLER: Alright, we've got two warm eggs that we stuck in a bucket of warm water, and we're going to weigh them out here. A large egg is usually 50 to 55g. This recipe calls for 85g of egg, so I'm going to scramble it and then add 85g to the dough. We don't have to throw out the rest, because the challah needs to be egg-washed before baking, so you can just save the rest of that egg to brush on the outside.
ERIC SCHEDLER: And we start mixing. In goes the dry into the wet. This is another one that's going to get tough to finish with the wooden spoon here, because it's such a stiff, dry dough. Until you get your hands in there, you almost think how can you even make that into dough? Okay, getting my hand in there, because I can only get so far with a spoon. I'm trying to pick up all the little bits that are stuck to the bowl before I get too far into the mixing, and then use my hands to knead and get everything evenly incorporated.
ERIC SCHEDLER: Each time I go around, I'm pulling a piece of the dough from the edge of the bowl and pressing it down into the middle, and spinning the bowl and repeating that process. I can tell I'm not done, because there's darker yellow pieces of dough in there, where there's a little bit more egg in those spots.
ERIC SCHEDLER: These are beautiful, deep yellow-yolked eggs, from Shacks Farm. This one's a bit of a workout to mix. Okay, that looks pretty good.
ERIC SCHEDLER: We're setting our dough aside, covered, to start its fermentation process. And we want to fold the dough every 30 to 60 minutes. So, if you have a kitchen timer, it's a good way to not forget. Just set the timer for 30 minutes and, every time it goes off, just come by and fold your dough.
ERIC SCHEDLER: It's going to be less messy if you have a little bowl of water next to your dough, and if you have one of these plastic bowl scrapers. We're going to uncover the dough, stick our hands in the water and fold the dough. So, I'm going around the edge of the bowl, pulling dough up into the middle. And I've gone once around; it feels like it's getting some tension in it. This particular dough feels like it could go just a little more than once around, and you're helping build that tension in the dough, so that it has more strength.
ERIC SCHEDLER: Now our challah dough's been sitting at least three hours, you can mix your dough and let it go for a few hours; or you can move it into a fridge overnight, and then braid the next day; or you can braid the bread and put the shaped breads in the fridge, and then finish proofing them the next day, and bake them the next day. So you break up the process how you need to, to make it work for your schedule.
ERIC SCHEDLER: So, this dough is ready to go. The recipe that we're making makes two, small, 12oz challahs. We've found, in our house, that if the challah's too big, then the kids only eat challah for dinner. So, we like to make them small and serve only half. [LAUGHS]
ERIC SCHEDLER: We're going to cut this into four pieces. I have a nice, two-strand braid that simplifies some of the work. You actually braid it like a four-strand braid, but you only have to cut and roll two strands, per loaf, so that's where we're going to start. We're going to get a little bit of flour on the table. You don't want too much for any bread, but challah's a pretty stiff dough, and if you get too much flour, it will just swim around and you won't get any traction.
ERIC SCHEDLER: There's the dough coming out. I'm going to make some 6lb pieces. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the more even you get them, the more symmetrical you're likely to get your finished challahs. I'm not even using flour, because my dough is so dry and the table's dry. Everything's dry today. So, I'm going to flatten these pieces out. If you can, cut them rectangular, so you start with an evenly shaped strand. I'm going to roll it up, and then roll it out, 16 to 24in long here. As long as we can get it, because this strand is going to get folded in half, to serve as two strands. You start to braid in the middle, and then you work all four ends down one way.
ERIC SCHEDLER: This recipe makes two challahs. I'm going to get all four strands rolled out, before I start to work with any of them. Challah is also one of the stiffer things that you will ever make out of bread dough. A lot of your loaves are a lot more hydrated than an enriched dough. Challah is considered an enriched dough, because it has some oil in it.
ERIC SCHEDLER: It could be made with butter, but it's definitely traditional to use oil to make challah, because if you keep kosher, which most people don't who eat challah, but if you do, you want to separate your dairy and your meat. If you put butter in your challah, then it would be a dairy food, and you wouldn't eat it with a meat meal. So, people like to be able to eat challah with anything.
ERIC SCHEDLER: I'm going to do my best to describe a braid with words. [LAUGHS]
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay.
ERIC SCHEDLER: I am going to make a plus sign, with these two strands, and I'm putting the horizontal one over the vertical one, and the point where they meet in the middle is going to be the top of the loaf. So, the whole braid is going to work down, from that point in the middle. It's a two step process and you keep repeating the two steps, over and over again.
ERIC SCHEDLER: So, we're going to take the vertical strand, and we're going to flip the ends, with the one that is currently down passing to the left, and the one that was up passing to the right. So, we flip them over, and then we're going to flip the horizontal pieces starting with the left and, remember, we're working down, and then the right over the top of it. And then we're going to repeat. Flip the vertical strands. The one that is down passing to the left. Flip the horizontal ones, left first then right. Okay, flip the vertical ones again, bottom passing to the left. Flip the horizontal pieces, left first then right. Bring that one down. If I can I'll flip these again, or maybe I'll just pinch that over here.
ERIC SCHEDLER: You don't want to braid a challah too tight. You want to let it be relaxed as you're braiding, so that the strands just pop out more. If you pull everything tight, then it doesn't pop as much after it rises.
ERIC SCHEDLER: Alright. After you've braided your challahs, depending on the weather you might need to spray a little water on them as they're proofing, because if the dough gets dried out on the surface that can kind of prevent it from expanding; it loses its ability to stretch. So, today is definitely dry. I'm getting them a little wet and I'm going to cover them with plastic.
ERIC SCHEDLER: We're checking on the challahs and it looks like they've risen by at least 50%, and so it's time to brush on the egg-wash. So, we're going to take that part of an egg that we didn't use in the dough, and a pastry brush, and we're going to brush it on the outside of the dough, and that is going to give these challahs a nice shine to them as they bake.
ERIC SCHEDLER: We're going to bake the challahs in our big, brick oven, which is 7½ft deep and 5ft wide, and it's a little bit cool right now, because we have a weekly heating, and baking cycle, and the oven just retains heat for the whole week. When we're finished heating it, on a Friday night, it's about 670, and at this point, on a Tuesday in the middle of the day it's at 365, which is a little cool for challah, but we're going to put it in the oven anyway.
KAYTE YOUNG: About 20 minutes later, we check on the loaves. When Eric pulled them out of the oven, they looked perfect. They were deep, golden brown in color, and had puffed out evenly, throughout the braid. Unfortunately, bread needs to cool before you cut into it. Eager bakers have been known to ruin good loaves, by ignoring this step. The bread is still cooking inside, and you have to learn to walk away and let it cool, or you can end up with a gummy mess in the middle.
KAYTE YOUNG: Challah, I can tell you, though, is a soft, light bread, slightly sweet, with a tender, golden finish. It's beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. This recipe lives with all the others on our website: EarthEats.org. Eric Schedler is the co-owner and baker of Muddy Fork Bakery, near Bloomington, Indiana. Find out more about Muddy Fork at EarthEats.org.
RENEE REED: Stay connected, subscribe to the Earth Eats Digest. It's a bi-weekly email with food stories, updates on the show and recipes from the Earth Eats archive. Go to EarthEats.org to sign up.
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KAYTE YOUNG: If you haven't made that contribution, give now at WFIU.org/donate, or call 800, 6623311. From all of us at Earth Eats and at WFIU, thank you.
KAYTE YOUNG: Next up, a favorite story from 2018, about the time when Upland Brewing made a special beer as a fundraiser for Mother Hubbard's Cupboard.
CHARLIE: It's going to be a juicy, hazy, East Coast-style IPA, which is very popular right now.
KAYTE YOUNG: He's talking about beer. Did you know beer could be juicy? Hazy, I can sort of picture, but juicy? That is a new one for me. I'm no beer connoisseur. I know almost nothing about beer. I mean, I'll enjoy a pint now and then, and I'm partial to craft beers, but my taste buds are not at all refined in this area. As far as how beer is made, I'm pretty ignorant there too.
KAYTE YOUNG: I know fermentation is involved, and hops. But what are hops, really, a grain? I'm not sure. But when my friends at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard told me they were partnering with Upland Brewing for a special, 20th anniversary, signature beer, I was intrigued.
MATTHEW BATTY: Most beers are made with dry hops.
KAYTE YOUNG: This is Matthew Batty. Creative Director with Upland Brewing.
MATTHEW BATTY: But this one is wood hops, which means fresh off the bine. It's a hazy IPA, and this one's going to be called Mother's Harvest, because it's our partnership with Mother Hubbard's Cupboard in Bloomington. We have a shared birthday. We're both 20 years old, starting in 1998. And we're helping them with their gala, in September, which should be a really fun event. I think we're going to do a hog roast, and help them raise some money, and also share this beer, once it's brewed, with them.
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay, I'm in. A cause I believe in, an unusual process, tell me more! They said I can go out to the hops farm for the harvest, and then follow them back to the brew house for a lesson in beer making. I said yes to that.
KAYTE YOUNG: First thing I notice, is that hop plants are referred to bines. Yeah, that's B, as in boy, not V, as in Victor. The farm I visited is called Indy High Bines. It's up near Indianapolis, and the bines are, indeed, very high. Each plant climbs up a rope, strung on a substantial trellising system. They reach up to 25ft, maybe higher, row after row of these high bines, loaded with hops cones.
KAYTE YOUNG: The bines themselves are not terribly leafy or lush, they're kind of thin really, and the flowers are the part you harvest. They remind me of a small, loose, papery, pine cone, and they're pale green.
RYAN GETTUM: This is a first year crop, so it's not as thick as our second year crop, but it is a perennial crop, so it comes back every year. Assuming the health of the plant's good, it'll always make it through the winter and come back the next year.
KAYTE YOUNG: But you can harvest the first year?
RYAN GETTUM: You know, if your plants are big enough, yes, you can. If your plants struggle through the first year, you might not want to, just to let them build up more root system, more reserves in the plant. But we've had good success getting good yields on our first crop, so we harvest them. We try to leave a good amount of plant at the bottom, that'll grow up and bush out through the fall.
KAYTE YOUNG: That's Ryan Gettum, one of the owners and growers at Indy High Bines. This is their fourth year growing hops in this field. To harvest them, one crew goes along the base of the bines and clips them, the whole plant and the rope they're climbing on. They use a pair of hand-held clippers. Then a couple of people climb up on a crude, wooden structure, a tower, pulled by a tractor in between the bines.
RYAN GETTUM: And up in the tower, we cut the tops and then someone down low guides it into the trailer as we cut the tops off, and drop them in the trailer. And we pretty much try to load the trailer as full as we can, and get as much as we can get really up to the machine, and then we'll run the machine.
KAYTE YOUNG: The day I was out there, they were just getting what Upland needed for their special harvest brew, and a crew from Upland was out there helping. It went pretty fast.
RYAN GETTUM: See this belt? Well, there's a belt, above that belt, and it will all fall onto that belt. So, basically, everything that gets stripped off the plant goes to a belt, and it all falls and goes down in front of this mesh belt, and what you'll see happen, is all the leaves will stick to the mesh belt, all the cones will continue down. Then there is a bottom belt in there, that collects all the cones and it brings them up, and then dumps them over these dribble belts, and the cones will go down to the bottom of the dribble belt. You'll be pretty amazed what comes out the other side.
RYAN GETTUM: This was made in Germany in 1982, specifically for hops.
KAYTE YOUNG: Rachel is with the Upland crew and she's learning how to load the bines onto the machine.
RACHEL: We're basically trying to find the end, to push all the green stuff away, and then once it loads it in, they'll use the rope and the vine, to pull it up. Then they'll start to strip the leaves and branches off of it. It's mostly just like hooking it. It's hooking the bine, to carry it into the top.
KAYTE YOUNG: That's when Charlie, one of the brewers at Upland, told me what the beer would be like.
CHARLIE: It's going to be a juicy, kind of hazy, East Coast style IPA, which is very popular right now.
KAYTE YOUNG: What do you mean when you say "juicy"?
CHARLIE: Juice characteristics. It's not like a very effervescent, very high carb beer, like you're used to drinking with a Pilsner or a lager. It doesn't have pulp or anything like that, but just the mouth feel of the beer is more like drinking an orange juice, versus a Champagne, a very light, high-carbed beer.
KAYTE YOUNG: I still didn't know what he meant. I guess I'd just have to wait until I could taste the beer for myself. For now, I'll just focus on the hops, those pretty, pale green cones, that are quickly filling up the mesh bin at the end of the final conveyor belt of the machine. It's a pretty cool morning, with patchy clouds shielding us from the August sun, and the aroma of hops is thick all around us.
KAYTE YOUNG: They smell great.
RYAN GETTUM: Yeah, they do. Very piney. Very citrus and pine, like grapefruit and pine almost.
KAYTE YOUNG: And as we're standing over the final conveyor belt, picking out any stray leaves, I ask Ryan when the hops usually come up in the spring.
RYAN GETTUM: Usually pretty early around here. So, usually, by the first of March, we're stating to see them emerge, and then, we actually continually prune them to the ground. As they grow up, we prune them, they grow up and we prune them, and that's so we can get our timing on the string right. We want them to start climbing at a certain point in the year.
KAYTE YOUNG: Oh!
RYAN GETTUM: And we start early here, because it gets warmer here. So, we have to prune them back a couple of times usually, before we actually let them climb, so they maximize the daylight in the summer, and that'll help maximize the yield, it'll help maximize the oils that they develop in the cone. So, timing's pretty critical in the spring.
KAYTE YOUNG: The machine's running mostly on its own at this point. The crew is pretty laid back, beer in hand, laughing, joking, guiding bines on the hooks, picking leaves off of belts. They'll be heading back to Bloomington with their fresh batch of hops in no time.
KAYTE YOUNG: After a quick break, we'll visit Uplands Brew House in Bloomington, for the next stage in the wet hopped brewing process.
KAYTE YOUNG: Thanks for tuning into Earth Eats, for our anniversary fund drive edition.
ZACH ALLGOOD: Have you been here before?
KAYTE YOUNG: I have not. I didn't know it existed.
KAYTE YOUNG: I showed up at the brewhouse, on the West Side of Bloomington at 9am, the next morning.
ZACH ALLGOOD: The brewhouse is back here.
KAYTE YOUNG: Zach Allgood was way ahead of me.
ZACH ALLGOOD: I came in and got started about six o'clock this morning.
KAYTE YOUNG: Zach led me through the packaging room, then the cellar and into the brewing room. It's a warehouse-type space, with high ceilings, filled with stainless steel tanks and machinery. There's a metal grate catwalk, leading up to the tops of three of the tanks. Zach moves up and down those stairs, checking gages, watching temperatures, pulling samples. He's got a beer stein-style mug filled with hot tea, that's never out of reach.
ZACH ALLGOOD: There's barley, wheat, some spelt malt; those are the grains in this beer. When the grains come in contact with hot water, there's some enzymatic activity that basically turns the starches into simple sugars. Then we take those sugars, and that's what we're going to make the beer with.
KAYTE YOUNG: Zach was kind enough to walk me through the general steps of brewing.
ZACH ALLGOOD: We have a three vessel brewing system, with our mash tun, our boil kettle and our whirlpool. This tank here is our cold liquor tank. This one right next to it, is our hot liquor tank, and so that's our brewing water. The cold water is used to help cool the beer. After we get done in the whirlpool, we'll let it settle. We'll spin that beer around and basically, we're letting centrifugal force help pull all the solids into the middle.
ZACH ALLGOOD: The idea is just to get a really clean work, so when we're ready to start transferring into the fermenters, we'll come through this as a heat exchanger, and so we're chilling it as fast as possible. So, it'll come in this side at about 200-ish degrees, and it'll come out the other side. About 20 degrees Celsius, is what it'll come out today.
ZACH ALLGOOD: So, at that point, it comes out into the cellar, where it will go into our fermenters.
KAYTE YOUNG: We moved into the cellar room for the rest of the steps.
ZACH ALLGOOD: Depending on the batch size, we'll go into different size fermenters. So, on the way to the fermenter, we will pitch yeast, in line, as it's going to the fermenter and then it'll start working. It'll start fermenting and, usually, in seven to ten days, fermentation will be pretty close to finished up.
KAYTE YOUNG: What about this wet hop tank?
ZACH ALLGOOD: This one, probably five or six days it'll be pretty close to finished up. They go pretty quickly. After that, we'll send most of our beers will go through our centrifuge to clarify it, so we can start pulling beer from the center. This will be a New England style hazy beer, so it won't go through the centrifuge. We'll go from the racking arm straight over into our bright tank. And then the bright beer tanks is where we carbonate the beer. So, there's a large, carbonation stone, similar to a fish tank aerator, that are in the side of there, and we'll push CO2 into the beer.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, that's your basic process for making beer. But this beer is special. It has something else.
ZACH ALLGOOD: This is for our wet hop harvest sale with Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. This big vessel here is called the hop back, and you put the hops in there and then, after the boil, we will run the hot work through those hops, and then it'll go into the whirlpool. So, you're extracting a lot of hop aroma and flavor, but very little bitterness, because you're at a much cooler temperature. It's not a very bitter beer, but it's a very hoppy beer.
KAYTE YOUNG: And those hops are green and fresh. They're the ones I just watched them harvest the day before out at Indy High Bines. They brought them in from the cooler and dumped them into the hop vac that Zach was talking about. I could smell them as soon as they entered the room.
ZACH ALLGOOD: I'll peel them apart for you, whenever you were up there. So, on the inside, there's all this powder, looks like pollen.
MATTHEW BATTY: Yeah.
ZACH ALLGOOD: That's lupulin, and that's kind of the thing that we're after.
KAYTE YOUNG: What's it called again?
ZACH ALLGOOD: Lupulin. Yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: I did take one in the car with me and I just crushed it up and smelled it.
ZACH ALLGOOD: Yeah, these are really nice. These are Chinook hops. [SNIFFS] Mm, good stuff.
KAYTE YOUNG: I found out that hops are in the same family as cannabis, and you'd believe it if you smelled these fresh hops.
KAYTE YOUNG: Hanging out at the brew house that morning, I was really struck with how technical the whole process is. You really got to geek out to be a brewer. There are so many variables, so many details: times, temperatures, rates of transfer from one vessel to the next.
ZACH ALLGOOD: 13.0 plus .7.
KAYTE YOUNG: Zach kept taking samples of the work, testing for sugar levels.
ZACH ALLGOOD: We're a little bit low. Our target gravity in our 1200 sample will be basically the same number. If that's the case, we know we'll add about another 200 gallons of water to the kettle and we'll be in the ball park.
KAYTE YOUNG: I was sufficiently impressed. The moment when the wort started to run through the bin of fresh hops, it was pretty exciting. I could tell this wasn't an everyday thing for the brewers.
KAYTE YOUNG: At this point, Zach was working with another brewer, Matt Wisely.
ZACH ALLGOOD: Ready?
MATT WISELY: Do it!
KAYTE YOUNG: Matt was down with the hops, while Zach opened the kettle valve up on the catwalk. The scent of the hops came on strong with the steam, but it also changed, once the hot liquid hit.
KAYTE YOUNG: How would you describe that aroma?
MATT WISELY: Hoppy. [LAUGHS] Hops have a lot of the same aroma compounds that are in all sorts of different plants, just in different combinations. So, these are very piney, and kind of citrusy. And the flavor and aroma changes, depending upon what stage you use the hops and the beer. So, if you infuse a certain flavor into the hot wort, and then it goes through a fermentation, the yeast transforms a lot of those flavors into different sorts of flavors. So, you never really know what you're going to get out of a specific hop, until you use it in a beer.
KAYTE YOUNG: But using these fresh like this is different, you're pulling out different flavors?
MATT WISELY: Yeah, you're getting something different. There is a debate upon whether it's better or worse, but it's certainly not the same. The technology they use to make dried and pelletized hops now just gives you a really nice product that's very efficient in extracting all the good stuff out of there. So, almost everybody's using pelletized hops, it's just an easier form and you get more out of them. This is definitely much harder to work with, but these are as fresh as you can possibly get really, less than 24 hours from being harvested off the vine.
KAYTE YOUNG: As they stirred the mixture with the long-handled paddles, steam rising from the vat, the hops went from brilliant green, to a dull, sandy color. I started to get really curious about what this beer was going to taste like.
MATT WISELY: That's pretty much it for that. It's going to be transferred in there for, like, 45 minutes, and then everything else is behind closed doors, if you will. There's not much else to see, it's all in the tanks.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, you stirred it in there for a few minutes, but it's basically running out now.
MATT WISELY: Yeah. It's moving into the whirlpool tank, where it'll spin it around to separate the solids from the liquid, and then we can send it off through the chiller and into the cellar.
KAYTE YOUNG: So, that's it. Alright. Well, thank you.
KAYTE YOUNG: The name of this special wet-hopped beer is Mother's Harvest, in honor of Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and their shared 20th birthday.
KAYTE YOUNG: I finally got to sample the beer at a Dine and Donate event out at Upland's 11th Street location. When I ordered it, our server wanted to tell me about the hop farm and the special process. I let him talk, but I was certain I knew more about this beer than he did.
KAYTE YOUNG: When the beer arrived, I noticed it lived up to Charlie's "hazy" description. It was served in the smaller, tulip-style glass, rather than a pint tumbler, and it was pretty cloudy. I took a sip. First impression, super hoppy. It tasted just like those fresh hops smelled. A few sips in, I got it. I got what he meant, when he said "juicy". The mouth feel It really felt like I was drinking juice, grapefruit juice, in fact. Fruity, citrusy, with a hint of bitter, like grapefruit is bitter. And yes, it was drinkable, a little too drinkable, perhaps. I felt like I could easily enjoy a few of these, without even noticing. I'm still no connoisseur. Not by any means. But I tasted it. I tasted the juiciness, and I tasted the hops.
KAYTE YOUNG: Knowing a little of the story, behind the beer, visiting the farm, witnessing the process, it changed how I tasted the finished product. Makes sense I guess. The whole, know your farmer, getting connected to where your food comes from, it applies to beer too. To see some photos from Indy High Bines, and Upland's Brew House, check out our website: EarthEats.org.
KAYTE YOUNG: That story stands out in my memory from the five years I've been with Earth Eats. I love it, because it follows the thread from farm to table, in this case, from hops bine, to tasting room. And I learned something about a particular ingredient, how it's grown and the craft brewing process. It's also a story about community: a local brewery partners with a local food pantry, for a fundraiser event.
KAYTE YOUNG: Now, it's time for you to partner with us for our fall fund drive. You can support the show and everything we do here at WFIU by making your pledge of support now. Call 800 662311, or go to WFIU.org/donate, and thank you.
KAYTE YOUNG: That's it for our show. I hope you enjoyed our trip down memory lane, with Earth Eats founder, Annie Corrigan, Louise Briggs and her persimmon tree, everyone at Indy High Bines and Upland Brewing, and Eric Schedler at Muddy Fork Bakery.
RENEE REED: Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kate Young, with help from Eoban Binder, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Abraham Hill, Daniella Richardson, Payton Whaley, Harvest Public Media, and me, Renée Reed. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey, and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artists at Universal Production Music. Our Executive Producer is John Bailey.