In a cozy, brightly lit farmhouse kitchen on a February night, Liz Walkowicz chopped an onion in front of a dozen onlookers. “This is partly a knife-skills class,” she said, dicing the onion perfectly in seconds flat with her impeccable onion-chopping technique. “You’ll cry less this way.”
I’m attending a cooking class at Appleton Farms in Ipswich—specifically, a class called “Farm-to-Kitchen Cooking Class: Soups, Stews, and Chowders.” Gathered around a large island counter in the farmhouse’s kitchen and armed with peelers, blenders, kitchen knives, and a bit of wine, a dozen of us chop, mix, and simmer (guided by Chef Liz, of course) until we have three farm-fresh, homemade pots of soup.
It’s a perfect New England winter night. After we finish cooking the soups and stews, we bring the food into the farmhouse’s dining room to sample the fruits of our labor and to chat at a long, wooden communal table, lit with candles. It’s restaurant quality food but with a chance to meet new people and to bring home some new kitchen skills and recipes.
Appleton Farms, a Trustees property and the oldest operating dairy farm in the country, has expanded its culinary offerings this winter. In addition to the soups and stews class, which has its final session next Wednesday, February 26, they also offer classes like “Winter in Tuscany,” “Flavors of Puerto Rico,” “Showstopping Veggies,” and “Spices and Flavors of India.” Classes run Wednesdays through Sundays, in the evenings on weekdays and all day on weekends.
They also lead artisan workshops like bread-making, mixology, pasta- and cheese-making, wine paring, and chocolate-making, partnering with local artisans like Privateer Rum, Ovedia Artisan Chocolates, and Luca Mignogna of Wolf Meadow Farm. You can view details for all of their cooking classes here.
The classes work mostly with local produce and products and emphasize seasonal cooking, so the menus may change slightly based on what ingredients are fresh and available. The onion that Chef Liz chopped was right from Appleton Farms, and a locally grown leek still had soil on it, so she showed us how to correctly wash a leek.
I also learned how to properly chop a carrot, and how to use blended corn or beans as a healthier replacement for a soup’s thickening agent. Chef Liz is a wealth of knowledge on all things food, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and teaching private cooking classes for over twenty years. She currently works at Honeycomb Bakery in Hamilton.
All cooking classes, which take place at the Farmhouse, nestled towards the back of the Appleton Farms 1000-acre property and surrounded by woods and farmland, are BYOB. Make sure you wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes, since you’ll be standing and cooking throughout most of the class. Guests should also know that there’s always a slight risk of cross contamination for food allergies, like gluten or nut allergies.
The small classes hold no more than a dozen guests, so they recommend booking at least a couple weeks in advance. Cooking classes are typically $72 for members and $90 for non-members, though classes range from $40 to $90 for adults and from $9 to $40 for children. They also offer private classes if you have a group that wants to take a class together—email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.