PIECES OF THE PAST: The ‘Plymouth Rock’ of Citrus

Tacy CalliesPieces of the Past

Plymouth

I recently acquired a visitor’s guide for Plymouth Citrus Products Cooperative. The guide invited visitors to tour the cooperative’s facilities located in where else but Plymouth, Florida, which is between Orlando and Leesburg. 

According to the guide, the cooperative provided “quality canned and frozen citrus products, citrus pulp and molasses.” Visitors were encouraged to take a guided tour that showcased all the company’s products, as well the research laboratory, packing house, processing and power plants. The brochure noted that 10 million gallons of water were put through a water softener each day from four deep wells on the property to produce steam for the entire operation.

Fresh products produced by Plymouth from each 90-pound box of fruit included 40 pounds each of citrus sections and fruit salad. On the processed side, a box would supply 40 pounds of juice, 10 pounds of frozen concentrate at 42 degrees Brix and 6 pounds of pasteurized concentrate at 65 degrees Brix. Byproducts obtained per box included 1 ounce of cold-pressed peel oil, 1 ounce of distilled peel oil, 6 pounds of dry pulp, one-third pound each of citrus seed meal and oil, and 3 pounds of citrus molasses at 72 degrees Brix. This was just what Plymouth produced, as the wet pulp from processing would also be sent out to other finishing companies.

At this time, sectioned fruit and fruit salads were very popular since they made fruit available year-round to the consumer. The brochure described the process in the sectioning room: “The fruit enters this room from the peeling room, where it has been hand peeled. The sections are packed in sugar syrup, vacuum sealed, pasteurized and cooled. These girls average about 250 cases per day.”

The evaporator room used the “Skinner falling film type” evaporators, which recirculated the juice under vacuum at a “temperature not exceeding 60 degrees F, nothing being removed but the water from the juice. Thus, the juice loses none of its fresh fruit flavor.” Afterward, the cans were filled and then traveled “along conveyor belts into the freeze tunnel directly above. The cans travel for 150 feet while the temperature falls to 0 degrees F or below.”

In the 1950–51 season, Plymouth Citrus Growers Association grew over half of the 3,921,156 boxes of fruit that Plymouth Citrus Products Cooperative handled, of which 585,619 boxes were packed fresh. Almost 3.4 million boxes were processed, resulting in 2.5 million gallons of frozen concentrate, 1.8 million gallons of which were under the Snow Crop brand. In addition, over 2 million cases of canned citrus (sections/fruit salad) were produced, almost 700,000 gallons of molasses were manufactured, and over 10,000 tons each of feed and fertilizer were produced. 

And did I mention that Snow Crop eventually became Minute Maid Corporation? That’s another story, but it looks like Plymouth was quite the rock to stand on…

Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.

Seeking Citrus History
Do you have any photos, memorabilia or stories you’d like to share or donate to the Citrus Archives? Contact Brenda@BurnetteandAssociates.com. Visit www.FloridaCitrusHallofFame.com to view videos, photos, postcards, citrus labels.

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