For some of the freshest farm-to-table dishes on the North Coast, head to Appleton Farms in Ipswich. Using freshly picked vegetables from the fields, locally sourced grains and cheeses, and other ingredients, the farm shop and cafe offer homemade seasonal soups, salads, and pizzas, as well as breads. crisps, pies, quiches and much more.
“I love being able to do what we do, which is feed the community with the most nutritious ingredients possible,” says Jess Wagoner, Culinary Program Manager and Food Services at Appleton Farms, which launched the foods prepared in July 2020 in response to the pandemic. “I was teaching an introduction to sourdough bread and a pizza and flatbread class at Appleton Farms just before COVID hit and then, of course, all classes were canceled. But I got a call at the end of June [from the farm’s property director, Lieza Dagher]saying, “You know, we’ve got all these green spaces and we’ve got this old earth oven and we’ve got this commercial kitchen that’s not being used (for classes), would you like to come and make some pizza over the fire of wood for the community? ”
Wagoner, the former bread production manager at A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem, jumped at the chance and developed a pizza program using local flours from Ground Up in Hadley and her own wild yeast. The farm’s seasonal vegetables provided toppings for the pizzas and the preparation of various salads offered on the side, including the house salad made with Appleton Farms greens, shredded carrots, onions, seasonal fruits and lemon vinaigrette.
“The pizza program was a huge success,” says Wagoner, who regularly sold 200 pizzas an hour that first summer. “Even though the pies bake in about a minute, the wait can sometimes be 1.5 to 2 hours. We were totally criticized but it was so wonderful because people could spread out and enjoy their pizza [safely, outside on the property].”
When it got too cold to bake pizza, Wagoner used the commercial kitchen to make artisan breads, including the farm’s flagship whole-wheat sourdough, a bestseller in the farm store. She hired staff and began offering baked goods, such as tea rolls, fruit tarts and chocolate chip cookies made with Duxbury sea salt. She simultaneously launched a picnic program at a fire pit offering soup of the day made from this week’s bumper vegetable harvest, served with hot buttered sourdough toast. She served hot pretzels with mustard, as well as hot cider and cocoa made with local dairy products and homemade ganache.
She also prepared prepared foods to sell in the farm shop, such as quarts of soup, various kinds of mac and cheese, four-bean chili, and bolognese sauce using beef from the farm. “We have customers who come in weekly and stock up on pots and three different soups because they want to have that quick option when they’re busy during the week,” says Staci Zarimba, who runs the farm shop. . “Currently most of what we offer is frozen, although we do have some fresh, like green sauce,” a parsley-based pesto-like condiment that sells out as soon as it appears.
Cooking classes resumed in fall 2021, along with Wagoner’s prepared food program. The Thursday-Sunday wood-fired pizza series returned last summer with pies such as Potato-Leek and Squash Delicata with Roasted Garlic and Crispy Kale. Wagoner also offered pre-ordered local fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving, as well as a brining and stuffing kit, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, squash, prepared sage stuffing and various pastries and pies.
Fire pit picnics ran again all winter long with soup choices like the Italian Ribolita and the Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Stew. The holidays brought a kid-friendly cookie decorating kit with prepared gingerbread cookies, frosting and added decorations, fruitcake made from Privateer rum from Ipswich, barleydoodles (snickerdoodles made from barley flour) and even more harvest-inspired frozen offerings, including vegan thanks to a vegan chef from the Wagoner team.
Pizza picnics will return for summer 2022 on June 4, and Wagoner continues to dream up even more ways to bring the farm’s bounty to visitors.
“We design everything in real time, based on visitor attendance and our physical space,” says Wagoner, who admits that with so much space to prepare, chill and freeze food, growth is limited. And yet, she aims for the stars. In an ideal world, Wagoner would produce even more varieties of bread, more pastries and more prepared foods. She would like to regularly offer sandwiches, salads and soups on the porch. “I mean, the dream would also be to have coffee service and basically be a beer garden on the farm.”