My first farm trip this fall was to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury. Their delicious peaches found their way into this awesome cobbler and their bakery is, quite simply, the most enticing farm stand bakery I have ever been to. I'm pretty sure if I lived any closer to CHF I would actually overdose on their pumpkin cream cheese muffins. Mmm... drool... yum!
A couple of weeks ago I took a drive out west with Mom and Masi, ostensibly to introduce Masi to the largest yarn store in the state, but we managed to hit up two local farms nonetheless. The first was a small farm stand that I had read about online: Small Ones. This family-run farm practices earth-friendly farming by using natural farming practices and eschewing synthetic chemicals. I've only been to a few farm stands that are so tiny they are merely a cart with a locked box in which to slip cash before loading up your choice of products. Small Ones is one such farm. No matter, I was there for one reason and one reason only: the apple cider vinegar (good thing I had exact change). I use apple cider vinegar in a number of dishes and was excited to find an independent, local producer for this kitchen staple. Although it is as pungent as one might expect, the apple scent is definitely at the fore - this is a tasty, tasty, vinegar.
|Small Ones apple cider vinegar|
On Friday Mom, Thom and I drove out to the Berkshires to visit the Hancock Shaker Village and enjoy the pretty scenery along the way. It's been so warm this year the foliage wasn't as brilliant as we might have hoped but at least the ride was sunny and warm. After lunch at HSV we picked up one of those cartoonish free tourist maps and meandered around the local roads to a couple of farms. Our first stop was the Bartlett's Orchard Farm Stand in Richmond, MA. Just opening the car door we picked up the siren's call of cinnamon baking. Following our noses we discovered an impressive apple cider doughnut operation. Like the intrepid explorers we are we had to buy a half dozen for closer inspection and examination.
The variety of pumpkins at Bartlett's was the best I've seen yet this year. In addition to the ubiquitous carving pumpkins there were gourds, all manner of winter squash, varieties of white pumpkins and a great selection of baking and eating pumpkins including a beautiful Long Island Cheese pumpkin which we purchased. The Long Island Cheese pumpkin is a moschata species within the cucurbitaceae family (of which all pumpkins, melons, and squash belong) with a tan rind and sweet, orange flesh similar to its cousin, the butternut squash. This pumpkin was named for its exterior resemblance to a wheel of cheddar cheese. In addition to the pumpkin and the doughnuts we also picked up some luscious looking Pink Lady apples and Bosc pears.
If you've gotten this far I'm sure you're saying, "look, Cake, this tale of Massachusetts orchards flung far and wide across the state is all terribly interesting, but for the love of all things culinary please. get. to. the. recipe."
And so, without further ado, here it is:
Bright as Autumn Pumpkin Soup - serves 8
1 quart chicken stock (may substitute vegetable stock)
4lbs Long Island Cheese pumpkin - yield 5 cups roasted pumpkin
1 large sweet potato - yield 1 cup roasted sweet potato
3 small Pink Lady apples (may substitute McIntosh) - yield 2 cups
1.5 cups onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
juice from 1/2 a lemon (approximately 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup heavy cream - optional
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
ground sage, to taste
fresh grated nutmeg, to taste
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Scrub the sweet potato clean and place in the oven. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. If making toasted seeds, place them in a bowl of water to soak while prepping the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into manageable pieces and place them skin side down on a baking sheet. Rub the flesh with olive oil. Roast both the pumpkin and the sweet potato until they are tender when pierced with a knife. You can roast these the night before making the soup and store in the fridge overnight if desired. You will need to wait until the pumpkin and sweet potato are fully cooked before making the rest of the soup; you can skip ahead and make the pumpkin seeds in the meantime if you plan on garnishing with them.
When the pumpkin and sweet potato are fully cooked and have cooled enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin and set aside. You don't need to mash either. You should have approximately 5 cups of pumpkin and 1 cup of sweet potato. If you find you have a lot of extra pumpkin you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for another use.
Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil (may substitute olive oil or canola oil)
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon iodized salt
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to 300º F
Remove any adhering pumpkin flesh from the seeds. Rinse and drain well. In a bowl combine the spices. Add the seeds to the bowl, drizzle with the hazelnut oil and combine well with the spices. Spread the seeds in an even layer on a cookie sheet and bake until dry and toasted - approximately 40 minutes. Stir seeds every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
If you haven't already please get out there and enjoy your local orchards, farm stands and seasonal farmers markets. Many orchards are still family owned and run businesses who need your support during this all-too-short season to help stay afloat. In addition to the orchards listed above check out sites such as this one (or do a google search for orchards in your home state) to find a great one to visit.