Here at Local Pickins figuring out our holiday gift giving list for friends and families is a snap! What could be better than giving the gift of delectable food? We love supporting our local purveyors and reaching out to specialty providers across the country. However, we also enjoy giving holiday treats we’ve made in our own kitchens.
To get in the spirit and add a few new recipes to our repertoire, Local Pickins signed up for a cooking class – Gifts from the Kitchen – at Appleton Farms, a Trustee of Reservations property and working farm in Ipswich, Ma. The newly launched Appleton Cooks program has a tempting list of classes, check out the entire schedule here.
On a recent Saturday, we wound our way in on the farm road passing grazing fields, the CSA barn and farm store, and stonewalled pastures to the recently restored farmhouse. Serving as a visitor center, the farmhouse is full of Appleton family heirlooms, and boasts a fully outfitted farmhouse kitchen ideal for group cooking.
In addition to its busy CSA, Appleton also runs a dairy featuring 30+ Jersey milkers, a beef herd, and flock of chickens. The farm store sells their own milk, butter, cheese, beef and eggs. The cooking classes features some of the wonderful local food raised on this amazing property. For this class we used the farm’s rich yellow butter and farm fresh eggs in many of the recipes.
Farm Chef Carolyn Greico was leading this class and her tasty menu featured 3 sweet and 3 savory recipes: Fruit and Nut Granola, Local Cranberry Honey Mustard, Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Biscotti, White Chocolate & Dried Fruit Bark, Rosemary Orange Sea Salt, Savory Parmesan & Pecan Shortbread. We donned our aprons, and divided up into teams and were ready to double, triple or quadruple Carolyn’s recipes to make enough for each of the 13 participants to take home.
The Local Pickins team chose chocolate-dipped, gingerbread, biscotti, having never made our own before. Stirring up the beautiful, orange yolk eggs with the sugar, we learned that biscotti means “twice baked,” which is the process that gives it its’ distinctive crunch. We noted that there is no butter in biscotti, so they are lower in fat than most cookies.
There was a lot to take in as the teams worked on their cooking projects, with Carolyn directing our attention now and again to demonstrate a cutting technique, or share a tip on a key ingredient. Tantalizing scents filled the kitchen. The tangy aroma of the cranberry mustard cooking down on the huge stove, mingling with the sweet smell of chocolate melting gently in its double boiler. The scent of honey wafting from the trays of granola toasting in the oven, mixing with the spice of ginger and cinnamon from the baking biscotti.
Conversation was merry, but we quieted down so we could hear the crackling of the coarse sea salt as it heated up and became perfumed with orange zest and rosemary.
While our creations cooled, we shared a lovely light meal of fresh greens, farm cheese, and cured meats in the dining room swapping stories of kids, cooking and cross-country adventures. Then it was back to the kitchen to chocolate dip our biscotti, and divvy up all treats. Carolyn’s clever packaging ideas from mini jam jars, to elongated cello bags, to raffia bows, transformed our efforts into beautifully presented gifts. Such a rewarding class!
Merry cooking and happy holidays everyone!