Hello John, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. I'm wondering if you can speak generally about commercial kitchens. Are they always necessary when selling home-cooked goods? is there any variance from state to state? Are they even necessary for something like Tempeh production in which the main cooking action is incubation? And anything else you would like to say on the topic would be great!
I am also planning my kitchen. The question interrests me further than about legal stuff:
What is different from cooking for your family, and what should we do in order to be fair to clients?
For tempeh, marmelade, tomato sauce...
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Look up "cottage kitchen" regulations for your state. Utah's version is pretty accommodating toward anything that is baked or canned at pH below 4.6. As in, unlikely to kill you no matter how badly the person prepares it. Each state is making their rules differently, but that's the code word.
42 states so far created what are called "cottage food laws" to allow food entrepreneurs to create "nonhazardous food products" right in their home kitchen -- sometimes without ANY governmental inspections, fees or oversight, depending on your state. No commercial kitchen is required for these 42 states. In fact, some states explicitly prohibit a cottage food enterprise from using commercial-grade kitchen equipment. By non-hazardous foods, it means usually those that are low in moisture (cookies, breads) or high acid canned goods (jams, jellies, pickles). The spirit of these laws is to allow food entrepreneurs to get out there and follow a dream, test out a product and have some fun earning money selling products (NOT providing services...like catering) to neighbors and friends. Why ship a jar of jam 1,500 miles when you can get a better, tastier jar of jam from someone in your community?
For a great summary of your cottage food law, state by state, check out Forrager.com.
Our book goes into the big 4 questions most state laws address: What can you sell? How much can you sell? Where can you sell it? and In what ways can you sell what you make? Each state is different. Florida's law allows baked goods, but not pickles. In Wisconsin, we can sell pickles, but not baked goods.
Commercial kitchens are for when you've achieved success with your products. The last section of HOMEMADE FOR SALE goes into incubator/community kitchens, co-packers and commercial kitchen operations when you scale up.
Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko
HOMEMADE FOR SALE co-authors
Is there any rhyme or reason to the way that states differ in their provisions?
For example, I could see it being more difficult to preserve pickles in Florida's warmer weather, but I don't see it being easier to preserve baked goods.
Or are Floridians just culturally more comfortable with baked goods, and less fond of pickles, than their counterparts in Wisconsin?
Does your book include useful exemptions?
I've heard that 'sun-dried' whole fruits can be sold without a processor's license, where cooked foods like jams or jellies are considered a processed food, for example.
As for differences from cooking for the family: Your family might have a thriving gut biome that can handle the rankest stuff, but you don't want your first public marketing to be marred by someone getting an upset stomach or illness.
The first thing I'd do is study up for the food handler card/certificate. We all did this for a summer camp I worked for, since we were making wild-foraged teas and berry jam and cheese with the kids.
I found a selection of free online course links from my county's website, you only pay after you pass the course if you want the printable card, which cost about $10 as I recall. You could easily study up even if you don't want or need the card.
Food handler training covers high-risk foods and handling methods, hand-washing and preventing the spread of illness (including watch-out symptoms that indicate you should not handle other people's food today).
Some things I remember are how long food can sit out in "the danger zone" temperatures, proper cooking temperatures for animal products, tips for heating and cooling big batches of food quickly and safely, proper dish-washing and trash-handling hygeine, and so on. Even if you won't be selling the 'dangerous' products like meat and shellfish, you might want to reserve the top shelf of your fridge or pantry for your market goodies, or keep them in a bin with a good lid, so they can't get dripped on by unseemly stuff that was intended for the family.
If you have been getting rave reviews at potlucks for years, you probably won't have to adjust your methods much. But you might find a couple of tips that greatly reduce the risk as you scale up your operations.
"I'm wondering if you can speak generally about commercial kitchens. Are they always necessary when selling home-cooked goods? is there any variance from state to state? Are they even necessary for something like Tempeh production in which the main cooking action is incubation? And anything else you would like to say on the topic would be great!"
For home cooked food products, 42 states do NOT require that they be made in a commercial kitchen. That's what these "cottage food laws" are all about and the subject of our book, HOMEMADE FOR SALE. As mentioned previously, these laws can vary greatly, state by state. We can't sell cookies in Wisconsin (currently) and someone in Florida can sell pickles. We have some general info on our website, see:
Forrager.com has a state by state listing and summary of the laws.
Unfortunately, Tempeh does not seem to be on any list...so, you'll need to work with your state's legislature to get it on a list...an amendment to the cottage food law if your state has one.
Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko
HOMEMADE FOR SALE
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