we lucked out. it could not have been a more beautiful spring day for our farm & cheese tour at appleton farms – my first cooking class at the gorgeous new england estate.appleton farms is the oldest continuously working farm in the country. founded in 1638, it was owned and operated by the appleton’s for 9 generations. in 1998 the farm was given to the trustees of reservations, a massachusetts-based land trust non-profit. it certainly retains its new england authenticity…and couldn’t be a more welcome reprieve from the city. it feels like you’re going back in time as you traverse the windy dirt road to appleton farms, the expansive green pastures beckoning beyond the weathered rock wall that lines the drive. let me preface this by saying: i’ve lived within a 40-minute drive of appleton farms my entire life and had never been before, let alone heard of it. there is something wrong with that! i’m thrilled to have gotten in a visit before my move to the west coast – and i plan on frequenting often when i return home.
appleton farms’ newest program is called appleton cooks, which offers cooking classes, farm dinners and workshops centered around eating fresh and local foods. through my visits to appleton, i’ve been most impressed with how self-sustaining the farm truly is! they’ve got fields of vegetables, chickens (& fresh eggs!), hay, their own compost system, and finally – dairy cows, which produce milk, butter & outstanding cheese.i was fortunate enough to attend a recent cheese workshop through appleton cooks, led by chef carolyn of carolyn’s farm kitchen. the day began at the dairy farm, where we were introduced to the beautiful & stately jersey cows and one of their caretakers, kate. jersey cows produce milk with the highest fat content, so their milk is particularly good for butter and cheese-making. each cow produces 6-12 gallons of milk per day, which is then sent off to be bottled locally.next we were able to get a sneak peek into the cheese kitchen, and at the process of making butter. all of the butter needs to be hand-pressed by emily — and man, the girl is impressive! 50 pounds of cream yields only 25 pounds of butter, so she’s got to do a lot of pounding. we also got a sneak peek inside the cheese fridge — blocks on blocks of delicious asiago cheese!finally, we made it into the kitchen — beautifully lit with vibrant stainless steel — where chef carolyn taught the group how to make a variety of dishes, all featuring farm-fresh appleton cheese! the menu for the day included:
- herb salad with blue cheese crostini
- cauliflower mac n’ cheese
- homemade ricotta with baked berries
after sampling some of the cheeses and divvying up duties, we got straight down to business and each worked on our part of the meal. a quick hour or two later, most magically, a feast appeared!ricotta is shockingly easy to make, and now that i’ve had homemade it’s going to be hard to try it any other way. the gist of it is: add milk, cream & salt to boil, then remove from heat, add lemon zest and strain with a cheeseclotch. served alongside fresh berries, it’s the perfect summer dessert.i also discovered that cauliflower is an excellent addition to mac & cheese. it lightens up the dish and adds a depth of texture and flavor. to prepare, simply roast the cauliflower before adding it to the cooked pasta and cheese sauce to bake.
my favorite course though, was the first one — because that’s where i felt the “farm-fresh” piece came through most. the blue cheese crostini rocked my world (i was an adamant blue cheese hater until this point) …but something about the combination of the rich and creamy blue cheese with salty pistachios, and just a drizzle of sweet honey on top…yum. and the fresh herbs in the salad provided a perfect accompaniment. below you’ll find a recipe for the crostini, along with one for the berries & ricotta.we ate our meal at a long picnic table outside, enveloped in a gorgeous white tent, just as dusk was settling in. as we ate, that deep feeling of satisfaction and gratification sank in. that feeling that comes with a perfect sunny day, perfectly spent. belly’s full and happy.appleton farms is an undoubtedly quintessential new england experience. i am so fortunate that i was able to experience its magic for a day. with such a beautiful outdoor space, i was excited to hear that they’ll be offering friday farm dinners during the summer! they have an earth oven that will be popping out some delicious pizzas. it sounds heavenly.
for more info about the appleton cooks program, check out the appleton farms page.A RECIPE FOR BLUE CHEESE CROSTINI yields 6 servings
recipe courtesy of carolyn’s farm kitchen
- 1 baguette, cut into 1/2″ slices
- 8 oz. farmstead blue cheese
- 1/2 cup pistachios, coursely chopped
- honey for drizzling
- preheat oven to 400.
- brush the bread slices generously with oil on both sides and arrange on a baking sheet. bake for 8 minutes, until golden on the outside but soft on the inside.
- cut the cheese into thick slices and place atop each of the cooled toasts. set aside.
- place the cheese toasts under a preheated broiler for one minute, or until the cheese just begins to soften.
- remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with honey and sprinkle with pistachios.
- serve with an herb salad. :)
A RECIPE FOR RICOTTA WITH LEMON & ROASTED BERRIES serves 8
- 2 pounds strawberries, hulled & halved
- 2 cups fresh or frozen berries (blueberries or raspberries)
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 3 cup homemade ricotta
- preheat oven to 450.
- toss berries & sugar in a shallow baking dish, spreading out evenly.
- roast fruit for 15-20 minutes, until it just softens and begins to release juices, but retains its shape.
- remove from oven & let berries cool.
- fold the lemon zest into the ricotta and spoon into small balls. top with berries!