Monday, October 10, 2011

Cinderella Goes to the Farm... and Turns a Pumpkin into Soup!

It's that time of year when cooks everywhere run to the orchards, the farmers markets, and the farm stands to fill their baskets with apples, pears, and pumpkins (and cider, cider doughnuts, and my favorite: a caramel apple rolled in chopped peanuts). In the last month I've been to five different farms for all of the above mentioned items. (Except for that caramel apple... I always get one at Honey Pot Hill Farms; but I haven't been there yet this autumn).
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
The other farm we hit up that same afternoon was Cold Spring Orchard. This farm is actually a research facility for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. When Mom said she wanted to go to the UMass apple farm I had no idea it was the same farm I went to a year ago with friends who live out in Western Mass. This farm has both pick-your-own and loose apples for sale but it is definitely a no-frills kind of place. The focus here is on agricultural research, not corn mazes. That's not to say it isn't family friendly and full of delicious fruit - it is. While at Cold Spring I picked up a variety of apples as well as some pears which were amazing in this Pear Teacake. Cold Spring Orchard produces over a hundred varieties of apples ranging from the common ones such as MacIntosh to unusual ones like Winter Banana, which is extremely delicate and smells like bananas, to antique varieties like Roxbury Russet which was developed in Roxbury, MA in the 1600s. Apple farming does not immediately spring to mind when thinking about the wildly urban area of Roxbury today (the town was annexed by the city of Boston in 1868). Although here's a  fabulous little "did you know" tidbit - before the swampland that now comprises Back Bay and environs was drained and filled in, the one strip of land that was passable when the tide was out was known locally as Roxbury Neck; it connected colonial Boston with the farmland just south of the city. Thus concludes today's portion of History is Awesome. Moving on...

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.
Hilltop Orchards
After leaving Bartlett's we continued a short ways down the road (and practically into Canaan, New York) to Hilltop Orchards, home of Furnace Brook Winery, because what good is poking around rustic farm stands without a little wine tasting thrown in for good measure? Furnace Brook offers visitors one free taste with further tastings available for a nominal fee. Since we still had a lot of driving to do to get back home we each selected one wine to taste. Thom went for the mead; I tried the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; Mom selected the dry Riesling. The Riesling was the best of the bunch and so Mom picked up a bottle to take home.

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)
olive oil
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.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add your mirepoix (onion, celery, carrots) and cook until translucent. While this is cooking peel and chop the Pink Lady apples. You should have 2 cups of chopped apple. Add the apples, roasted pumpkin, and sweet potato to the mirepoix. Cover with the chicken stock.
Stir to combine and let the soup simmer, covered, over low heat for approximately 30 minutes. Add the juice of half a lemon and using an immersion blender, or working in batches with a blender, puree the soup until smooth and velvety. Season to taste with salt, white pepper, ground sage, and nutmeg. Let simmer, uncovered, another 30 minutes. Taste test the soup and adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream if desired. Garnish with spiced seeds and sage before serving. This soup may be frozen for up to one month - making it a fantastic do-ahead recipe for a Thanksgiving first-course dish.

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.
The seeds make a great garnish and good snacking. I know some people don't like the hulls but I don't mind them in the slightest.

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.



  1. soup looks really yummy,,,perfect pumkin colour too :)

  2. nice touch with the spiced pumpkin seeds!

  3. Love this soup, looks amazing and your presentation is gorgeous! :)

  4. This looks amazing. I can't wait to try it...and I would just eat up those pumpkin seeds before they even made it on to the soup!

  5. i love this pumpkin soup with pink lady apples. they have such great flavor! i am craving a good bowl of this right now. welcome to our #applelove bloghop!

  6. One of the great pleasures of Fall is going the orchards and pumpkin patches. Especially up in your area, where Fall is so perfectly brilliant. We live in the South where the fall is still beautiful especially in the mountains where we are, but it still doesn't compare to New England. Your soup is a perfect compliment to a day at the orchards.

  7. MMMM love all the festive recipes that are goin around the blogosphere right now :)

  8. The combo of flavors in this soup sounds amazing! I made a butternut squash-apple soup with habanero olive oil last winter. I'm going to toss in a sweet potato next time!

  9. Living overseas for the first time, I'm missing pumpkin patches and apple picking. Your soup looks amaizing!!!

  10. I love using pumpkin in anything! The soup looks delicious!

  11. Wow, what a great soup. Just roasted some pumpkin seeds last night. Looks so good!
    Check us out sometime @ :) Would love for you to check out some of our recipes.

  12. Looks gorgeous! And I love the flowers in the last picture, too.
    I just had my very first U-pick experience at a fall this October, and loved it. I wish it was easier for me to get there though, in Cleveland.

  13. Wow your soup looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Delicious! I love soup :) I really enjoy reading your posts :)

  15. I love pumpkin soup and I love the addition of apples here!

  16. Esto se ve deliciosa me encantan las sopas en todo tiempo,luce espectacular,abrazos grandes hugs,hugs.

  17. The color is wonderful and bright! Looks like it tastes fantastic, as well!


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