By Will Broaddus
---- — Appleton Farms has always catered to those who love their food fresh and local, with produce straight from the garden, beef from its own grass-fed cows and farm-made dairy products.
Now, it is taking the mission a step further.
The Ipswich farm, owned by the Trustees of Reservations, is launching a new series of cooking classes and meals this summer that will make the most of its own ingredients.
Some of these events will simply indulge the love of good eating and include Friday-night family farm dinners in July, when hamburgers will be grilled using Appleton’s beef, from cows raised on grass.
“That’s the cow’s natural diet. That produces a healthy cow, which, therefore, produces healthy meat,” said Susan Wood, who has worked for six years at the farm and is the newly appointed farm kitchen program manager.
There will also be three Friday-night pizza parties in August, with pizza toppings made from the farm’s cheese, tomatoes and herbs, all fired in the new earth oven built by volunteers.
“We finished building it (a few) weeks ago,” Wood said. “It’s a mixture of cob, made with sand, clay and water, that creates the top part of the oven. We built it on a pedestal of stone,” which was put together by a stonemason, she said.
A number of events are simply called “gatherings,” which will feature farm-to-table meals that have been prepared by Appleton and can be purchased restaurant-style, Wood said. These evenings may also include family-friendly movies and a visit from a Catmobile.
These dinners are only an appetizer, however, for cooking classes that will be offered at Appleton, at least once a week between now and Sept. 25, all featuring farm-raised food.
Appleton, the oldest operating farm in the country, recently finished renovations, which included building the new teaching kitchen where all the classes will be taught.
Each session will be taught by a professional chef, who will share recipes for crops that are in season.
“Chef Carolyn Grieco from Haverhill has an understanding of what’s growing locally,” Wood said. “She’s doing a fresh-crop cooking series, on June 22, July 27 and Aug. 24.
“It’s designed to go out, literally walk out in CSA (community-supported agriculture) fields, notice what we have the most of — what’s abundant that week — take only two of the vegetables and create three or four dishes.”
CSA is a program in which people who buy shares get crops from the farm throughout the growing season. Appleton Farms sells dairy products and meat at the farm, but not produce, which is reserved for participants in their CSA. (The CSA program is currently full, Wood said.)
But the farm encourages participants to use the recipes and techniques they learn in these classes to prepare food from farm stands and other CSAs in the region.
Other chefs in the program include Donna Keegan, who will teach summer grilling methods and salad preparation, as well as a summer’s bounty class, in which four farm-fresh dishes will be created.
“Again, taking what we have the most of, what’s growing abundantly, and making different dishes from that, different entrees,” Wood said. “Each different group will prepare a recipe while the chef walks around and observes. Then, we all sit down and eat food together.”
Debbie Powell will offer a class on making pies and tarts, using both sweet and savory recipes, and also a class on cooking with fresh herbs.
“We also have a gluten-free class in July — how to live and cook gluten-free,” Wood said. “A lot of people have an intolerance or an allergy to wheat. So ... they need to cook differently.”
“We will be making bread, pizza, pasta and all of those things we miss when cutting regular flour out,” according to the class description.
This class is one of several workshops in the program, which differ from recipe-based classes in that they focus on a particular culinary technique or type of cooking. Others will include cooking fish, pickling, cheese-making, knife skills and putting up preserves.
No special equipment is required for the workshops taught by Arlene Brokaw, the farm’s resident cheesemaker, or any other class in the program.
“It’s designed to be replicated in your home kitchen,” Wood said.
What: Cooking classes and family meals
When: Every week in June, July, August and September
Where: Appleton Farms, 219 County Road, Ipswich
Cost: Most cooking classes are $85 ($75 for members of the Trustees of Reservations). Family pizza nights are $10 per person.
More information: Full schedule of classes and meals available at www.thetrustees.org. Register at 978-356-5728, ext. 12, or firstname.lastname@example.org.