Apple & Pumpkin; The Flavors of Fall
Farms Harvest Squares
Food Styling: Jen Beauchesne | Photos: Sarah Baker Photography & Glenn Scott
Chef-inspired apple and pumpkin recipes make it hard to pick just one.
Apples, known widely across the world for their role in religion and mythology, are often considered the founding fruit of the United States. Whether baked in a pie or tucked in to a gooey grilled cheese, the adage "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is as much a part of American culture as is baseball. And when it comes time for Halloween and Thanksgiving, pumpkins take center table, with a flavor and aroma so symbolic of autumn that they appear in everything from coffee to candles. Both of these fruits (yes, pumpkin is a fruit!) are abundant during the New England change in seasons, as cool nights replace warm days and leaves transform to brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold.
At their peak in September and October, apples and pumpkins are also the fruit of Smolak Farms’s labor. A typical fall weekend at this North Andover farm draws up to 5,000 people to fill their own baskets, hop on a hayride, and stock up on cider donuts. The farm is so busy that owner Michael Smolak has to keep the door of his 1927 house locked, as overzealous visitors sometimes find their way right in to his living room. It’s all worth it, he says of "watching families with children come out to the farm and see the absolute delight on their faces when they see where food really comes from."
Smolak has lived on the farm for 61 years—"not yet my whole life!" he jokes. His Polish grandparents started farming the land, sections of which are 300 years old, and various members of the family still live on part of the 160 acres, most of which is preservation land. Education is a big part of the farm, which hosts thousands of school kids on field trips with the goal of learning about agriculture, including a chance to pick their own apples—a first for many.
The farm is planted with 25 acres of apples, mostly Cortland and McIntosh, with a few dedicated to an antique orchard that preserves varieties no longer grown for commercial harvest, like Cox’s Orange Pippin, which dates back to 1832, and Lady—a French variety from the 1600s, also known as Pomme d’Api. Smolak and his sister, Eileen Mauck, started the farm’s bakery in 1985 as a way to use up extra apples. Eileen developed all the recipes, from pies to muffins to Smolak Farms’ famous apple cider donuts. The bakery—once the only one in North Andover—sold 140,000 donuts last year. There was also another, more historical use for excess apples: Smolak recalls how his grandmother always kept a few barrels of cider in the basement over the winter.
During pumpkin season, the patch is filled with families searching through over 30 different varieties (Orange Smoothie and Honey Bear, to name two) planted across 10 acres, which equates to about 25,000 pounds sold per year. Smolak himself loves pumpkin pie and advises that sugar pumpkins make the best pies. Another tip? Those cute, tiny ones the kids love— they’re actually Japanese squash, which taste great baked with butter and syrup.
Every weekend in September and October is Fall Festival at Smolak Farms, which includes a Great Pumpkin Day and a Halloween-themed trick-or-treat celebration. Kids delight in visiting animals like llamas and peafowl, watching duck races, and romping in the playground, among other special activities. As fall winds down, the Christmas trees begin sprouting for the holidays—but nothing compares to bushels of apples and piles of pumpkins, the quintessential signs of a favorite New England season.
Pumpkin Gingersnap and Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Gingersnap and Pecan Pie - From Buttermilk Baking Company, Newburyport
- 10-in. pie shell, homemade or store bought
- 15 oz. fresh pumpkin, roasted and pureed, or canned pumpkin puree
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. heavy cream
- 1/2 c. evaporated milk
- 3/4 c. pecans, toasted and chopped
- 1 c. homemade or store-bought gingersnap cookies, chopped
- Pinch ground cloves
Shape pie crust as desired, chill in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin and eggs. Whisk in both sugars, spices, and salt until combined. Stir in cream and evaporated milk, set aside. In a separate bowl, toss together pecans and cookies. Remove pie shell from refrigerator; pour cookie mixture into bottom of pie shell, pressing slightly into the crust, slightly. Slowly pour pumpkin pie filling over cookies and pecans, making sure to coat each piece. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is set and knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 2 hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve or serve at room temperature. If desired, top pie with freshly whipped cream, spiked with a splash of bourbon.
Buttermilk Baking Company Owner Ashley Bush's Inspiration:
"I have always loved pumpkin ice cream sandwiched between homemade gingersnap cookies and rolled in toasted and salted pecans. It’s sweet, cold, crunchy, smooth, and delicious. The inspiration for this pie comes from those ice cream sandwiches. This is a very classic pumpkin pie recipe with just little added texture and familiar flavors of the season."
Sugar Pumpkin Ravioli with Roasted Pears, Sage, and Chestnuts
Sugar Pumpkin Ravioli with Roasted Pears, Sage, and Chestnuts - From 62 Restaurant, Salem
For the pasta:
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. semolina flour
- 1/2 c. chestnut flour
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
Combine the above ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment and mix for 10 minutes. Remove the pasta dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes. After the rest time, use a pasta machine to roll the dough into thin sheets. Cover the sheets with a damp towel and set aside while the filling is made.
For the filling:
- 2 sugar pumpkins, halved
- 1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 c. ground or crushed
- amaretti cookies
For the sauce:
- 4 Bosc pears, skin on, sliced
- 10 sage leaves
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1 c. chestnuts, coarsely chopped
- Olive oil
Filling: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the pumpkin cut side down on a sheet pan and roast for 40 minutes or until soft. If the pumpkins begin to color and darken, cover with foil to prevent further darkening. Once the pumpkins are cooked fully, remove from the oven and allow them to cool. Once cooled, spoon the pumpkin flesh into a bowl. Combine with the Parmigiano-Reggiano, some grated nutmeg, egg yolks, salt, and the ground cookies.
Ravioli: Lay a sheet of pasta on a lightly floured cutting board. Spoon small amounts of the filling onto the pasta about 1 inch apart. Slightly wet the sheet with water using a pastry brush. Lay another pasta sheet over the filling, pressing and sealing around the edges. Cut in between the mounds of filling to create individual ravioli. Continue in this fashion until you have the desired number of ravioli or until all the filling and pasta are used up. Set aside.
Sauce: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and the pears in a single layer. Allow the pears to cook until the edges turn slightly brown. Drain any excess oil, but leave the pears in the pan. Add the butter and sage leaves. Allow the butter to brown. Add the chestnuts to the cooked ravioli. Toss the ravioli to coat with the sauce. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Chef/owner Antonio Bettencourt's Inspiration: "I basically couldn’t choose between all of these great ingredients, which really scream fall in New England to me—pears, chestnuts, pumpkin, and sage—so I tried to find a dish in which I could use all of them without it becoming a big complicated mess. I usually don’t use a ton of items in my dishes because I like to focus on simplicity. As I layered each item into this dish, I was happy to see them complementing each other. Squash/pumpkin ravioli in sage butter is a classic fall/winter dish in Italy, so that was a good starting point. With just a few tweaks, I think we really made a unique take on the classic."
Harvest Martini - From Wild Horse Cafe, Beverly
- 2 oz. vodka
- 1 oz. Pama
- 1 oz. apple cider
- Splash of Prosecco
Combine vodka, Pama, and cider in shaker. Shake until cold. Pour mixture into a cinnamon sugar-rimmed martini glass. Top with a splash of Prosecco.
Co-owner Matt Blanchard's Inspiration: "This drink originated years ago for a wedding I was catering. It was a fall wedding, and the bride wanted a seasonal martini. This is what we came up with. It’s nice and light and not too sweet. Since its first use, it’s been featured at several other fall weddings, and it was often seen in the fall and winter months at 15 Walnut when I worked there. Now, you’ll see it at the Wild Horse."
Johnny Appleseed didn’t have visions of pie—he planted orchards that were mainly used by settlers for the cultivation of hard cider or applejack, the latter of which is a strong alcoholic beverage produced from apples that was popular in the American Colonial period. These days, both apple and pumpkin are prominent flavors in many kinds of liqueurs:
Berentzen Apple Liqueur - This authentic German apple schnapps has followed the same recipe since 1758; perfect for spiking apple cider. $26.99/750ml
Cisco Brewers Pumple Drumkin Spiced Ale - Though this beer comes from Nantucket Island—known more for its cranberries—it tastes of another Thanksgiving favorite: pumpkin pie. $9.99/six pack
Harpoon Craft Cider - Made right in Boston from local apples, this is a great choice for those following a gluten-free diet; $9.69/six pack
Lindeman’s Pomme Lambic Belgian Beer - Lambics are unique beers fermented via wild yeast with the fruit flavor coming from the addition of pure apple juice; $6.49/12-oz. bottle
Neige Apple Ice Wine - Called ice wine because the fresh-pressed apple juice is placed outside in the frigid Quebec winter to crystallize. $34.99/375ml
Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka - The limited-edition holiday flavor is like having dessert in a glass; whipped cream optional; $12.99/750ml
Available at Kappy’s Liquors, 175 Andover St., Peabody, 978-532-2330, kappys.com
Brussels Sprouts with Apple Cider Syrup, Herbs, and Bleu Cheese
Brussels Sprouts with Apple Cider Syrup, Herbs, and Bleu Cheese - From Wild Horse Cafe, Beverly
For the dressing:
- 1 qt. apple cider
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. xanthan gum or
For the sprouts:
- 3 c. Brussels sprouts,
- cleaned and halved
- 1/4 c. bleu cheese
- (Great Hill Blue)
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme
- Sea salt to taste
Reduce the apple cider slowly by half with the herbs. Let reduction rest and strain off the clear liquid, leaving the herbs and sediment behind. Whisk in xanthan gum to slightly thicken (this allows the dressing to cling to the sprout). Deep fry the Brussels sprouts until golden brown. (You can also bake them with a little oil at 350°F until they have browned.) While still hot, toss sprouts with herbs, bleu cheese, salt, and a liberal amount of dressing. Transfer to a bowl and, if so desired, add chopped nuts and/or bacon.
Co-owner Sam Hunt's Inspiration: "I created this dish when we first took over the Wild Horse back in January, and although I try to cook [according to] the seasons, I haven’t been able to take this dish off [the menu]. The sweet and tangy apple syrup balances the slightly bitter Brussels sprouts while the herbs and bleu cheese add a depth of flavor."
Apple Crisp - From Smolak Farms, North Andover
- 4 c. peeled, sliced apples
- 1/4 c. water
- 3/4 c. flour
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread apples evenly in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle apples with water. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt; stir lightly to mix. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over apples. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
Smolak's Sweet Solution: This simple and delicious family recipe was created by Michael Smolak’s sister, Eileen Mauck, after they realized they had a whole lot of apples and needed something to do with them.
Harvest Squares - From Smolak Farms, North Andover
Michael Smolak explains how to pick the perfect pumpkin and make your own pumpkin puree: "Examine the pumpkin to make sure the stem is intact and firm. The skin should be free of blemishes, cuts, and dings. The darker orange the pumpkin, the sweeter it is. Cut the stem off and cut [the pumpkin] into large chunks with the rind. Be sure to scrape off all the strings and seeds. (You can rinse the seeds and roast them on a baking sheet with oil and salt at 400°F for about 20 minutes.) Boil the pumpkin pieces in water; stick a fork in the flesh, and when it’s soft, the pumpkin is cooked. Drain and cool slightly. Scrape the flesh off the rind and puree in a food processer until smooth. A 5-pound pumpkin will yield about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of flesh."
For the squares:
- 1/2 c. butter
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 can pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin filling
- 1 3/4 c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 c. chocolate chips
For the frosting:
- 4 oz. softened cream cheese
- 1/4 c. softened butter
- 2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Squares: Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs and pumpkin and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour mixture into a greased 9x12-inch pan. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. When cool, layer with frosting and cut into squares.
Frosting: Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla and mix well.
Boston Hill Farm - Apples + Pumpkins 1370 Turnpike St., North Andover, 978-681-8556, bostonhillfarm.com
Brooksby Farm - Apples 54 Felton St., Peabody, 978-531-7456, brooksbyfarm.org
Cider Hill Farm - Apples + Pumpkins 45 Fern Ave., Amesbury, 978-388-5525, ciderhill.com
Connors Farm - Apples 30 Valley Rd., Danvers, 978-777-1245, connorsfarm.com
Fay’s Farm - Apples 120 Amesbury Line Rd., Haverhill, 978-373-4874
Ingaldsby Farm - Apples 14 Washington St., Boxford, 978-352-2813
Long Hill Orchard - Apples 520 Main St., West Newbury, 978-363-2170, longhillorchard.com
Rogers Spring Hill Farm - Apples + Pumpkins 133 Neck Rd., Haverhill, 978-372-4305, rogersspringhill.com
Russell Orchards - Apples 143 Argilla Rd., Ipswich, 978-356-5366, russellorchards.com
Smolak Farms - Apples + Pumpkins 315 South Bradford St., North Andover, 978-682-6332, smolakfarms.com
Tendercrop Farm - Apples 108 High Rd. Route 1A, Newbury, 978-462-6972, tendercropfarm.com