Posts Tagged ‘Appleton Farms’

Local Girl goes to MasterChef Junior

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017



One young girl about to compete in this season’s Fox MasterChef Junior television series grew up among the pea tendrils, strawberry beds, and yards of chard at Appleton Farms.

Lila Deluca’s parents signed up for an Appleton Farms’ CSA share before she was born. Now ten years old, Lila has spent her whole life visiting this North Star of local foods every week, spring through fall. Kale makes Lila very happy.

“We cook kale a lot at home; we bake it, saute it, put it in smoothies; we are always looking for more recipes!” Lila says brightly, nothing kale-tired about her.

“And we cook fish a lot, too,” Lila says. “In the summer we catch fish off our boat – stripers, sometimes flounder.”

Lila grew up in Rockport. When she was only seven, Lila and her younger brother Anderson pressed their faces as closely as possible without singeing noses to the chefs’ stovetops at the Rockport Harvestfest Seafood Throwdown. Sister and brother have remained front row faces ever since.

“Every year we go to Harvestfest,” Lila says, “we watch the Seafood Throwdown because we cook fish a lot, and we are looking for ideas, and then we make them at home.”

Nurtured thus on local fare, Lila has developed a serious dedication to cooking, an excitement that has landed her sunny, bespectacled face on the Masterchef Junior promotion page with her 39 other kid competitors.

Modeled on the adult version of MasterChef (Gloucester resident Christian Collins made it to the #3 position out of 100 on MasterChef Season 2 in 2011.), Masterchef Junior takes forty talented kids between the ages of 8 and 13, and puts them through a series of whimsical challenges in which some cooks get eliminated, and the field gets more and more narrow. Ultimately one lucky child takes home the MasterChef Junior trophy and the $100,000 grand prize.

Fittingly, it was television cooking that sent Lila originally into the kitchen.

“Every summer we would go visit my mom’s college roommate on Martha’s Vineyard. She had older kids who loved watching cooking shows. That’s how my brother and I learned to love them. We started watching them at home – I liked Masterchef Junior a lot.”

“I knew something was happening,” Lila’s dad, Scott, said, “when after one evening of watching Masterchef Junior, we heard Lila down in the kitchen the next morning at 6:30. She was making croquembouche.” Croquembouche is an elaborate tower of cream-filled profiteroles held together in a crystaline web of spun sugar.

Lila now slips on an apron and turns the handle on a pasta-machine in her Rockport kitchen like a professional. She hasn’t lost that Appleton Farms good taste; when asked what some of her favorite foods are Lila says, “I really like carrots, if you mix them with butter and brown sugar and almost caramelize it. I like this with fish because the sweetness complements the fish.”

The Deluca family travel often and far, therefore Lila has picked up some favorite International cuisines; she loves the simple beans and rice from Nicaragua, enchiladas from Mexico. At home she loves to prepare with her family Chicken Tikka Masala; “We love the yogurt sauces; we marinate chicken overnight in yogurt and mint,” Lila says.

Here is one of Lila’s favorite fish preparations, a simple white fillet – Lila loves cod and striper for this – coated in a Ritz Cracker and butter crumb. What makes it a little special is the onions and lemon underneath the fish, which create a bright, fresh sauce to counter those rich crumbs.

“I love it when the lemon and onions underneath the fish make juices,” Lila says. “We pour that over the crumbs on the fish when it’s served.”

Lila recommends serving this with roasted potatoes and, of course, kale. She sautés her kale in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and garlic slices, and finishes it with lemon juice and salt.

When asked to describe her cooking style, Lila responds, “farm to table.” She’s a girl nurtured on Appleton Farms.

MasterChef Junior Season 5 starts February 9th on the Fox network.

Lila's fish and kale

Lila’s Baked Fish

2 pounds cod, striped bass, haddock, pollock, or substantial white fish fillets
8 ounces (about 2 sleeves) Ritz crackers
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 medium onions, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 – 3/4 cup white wine


Preheat oven to 375
Rinse the fillets under cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
In the bottom of a baking dish that will hold the fillets in one layer, lay out the onion slices, lemon slices, and pour in the white wine. Lay the fillets on top. Cover the fillets thickly in the cracker crumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the fillets are cooked through and the crackers are browned. Serve with roasted potatoes and sauteed kale with garlic.

The Appleton Farm Dairy Store: local milk, butter, & cheese

Monday, January 14th, 2013


“- until the cows come home,” means every afternoon around 2:30 in Ipswich.  A herd of thirty eight registered Jerseys come home to the dairy barn at Appleton Farms, the oldest continuously operating farm in America, a Trustees of Reservations Property.  The Appleton Farms Dairy Store, open to the public seven days a week, is now selling honest local terroir:  triple creme, cheddar cheeses, Greek yogurt, and delicate cultured butters, produced on the farm itself, with milk from the Appleton Farm Jerseys.



Heads bobbing, hip bones pointy from calving, full udders swaying, the gentle Appleton herd, anxious for the few cups of grain that rewards them as patient milkers, begin their languid march from pasture to barn at sundown, as dairy cows have done in paintings, prose, and poetry since we began eating cheese.  The slow pokes and day dreamers get prodded by Appleton Farm Dairy Manager, Scott Rowe (pictured below) and assistant Justin Sterling with a “hee-ah!” and a “git-up!”



Doe-eyed, soft cupped ears at attention, these chestnut beasts live well.  Except for milking (4:30 in the morning and 2:30 in the afternoon), they spend their time outdoors, eating a diet of 100 percent Ipswich hay, baled either on the 1,000 Appleton acres or on farms nearby.

“The goal is to make the cows as comfortable as possible, and to give them choices – when they can lie down, eat and drink,” Rowe explains.  Smelling of clean wood and sweet hay, the “tie-stall”-style barn allows enough room for the cows to lie down if they choose; it was once believed that prone cows produce better milk.



A particular Appleton Farms problem, the stalls, built originally for guernseys, are a little too high for the smaller Jerseys, who make a good show of hopping eight inches up to their places at milking time; some are more graceful than others.

Grass-fed, comfortable cows, Rowe says, translate into delicious milk.

“Our milk is tested by the state and by independent agents for protein, fat, and somatic cell count,” or the white cell count that indicates infection, classically mastitis, which plagues dairy farmers.  The Appleton herd’s somatic count is regularly 86,000 parts per million; “100,000 parts per million,” Rowe says,”is excellent.”

Milk from grass fed cows is considered nutritionally superior to their grain-fed brethren, as cows are basically machines translating the vitamins, linoleic acids (known to fight cancer) and omega 3 fatty acids of local grasses into cold glasses of sweet milk.  According to Appleton farms, Jersey cows metabolize hay more efficiently than larger breeds, allowing the highest yield of milk with a smaller carbon footprint.  (Appleton Farms, using a variety of methods – solar, electric vehicles, and organic farming –  prides itself on being almost carbon-neutral.)



Arlene Brokaw, Appleton Farms master cheese maker, rules the new stainless steel-plated creamery, separating curds from whey, pressing, salting, and then delivering the fresh milk tommes to the caves, dark rooms where mold, moisture, and time alchemize all into sharp, winey, crumbly cheddars and chalky, velvety rounds of triple creme.




Milk production varies but currently Brokaw is producing 600 to 700 gallons of cheese and yogurt a week.



Nine generations of Appletons farmed this 1,000 acres of rolling pastures ribboned by old stone walls and woodlands since 1636; Joan Appleton, heir-less, in 1998 donated the property and multiple buildings to The Trustees of Reservations, who promised to restore it as a working farm, “to engage people in real work,” Holly Hannaway, TTOR educator, told me.

“Appleton Farms always had a history of a dairy; in the 1860‘s, James Fuller Appleton had been instrumental in introducing the Jersey breed, valued for its high butterfat content, to the United States; we wondered, can we be a small American dairy again?”

In 2011, Appleton Farms, through the local Puleo dairy, began bottling and distributing its own milk in those cherished glass bottles.  The dairy processing operation was the last piece to being economically viable; what to do with a surplus of milk?  – what dairy farmers have known for centuries: transform it into valuable cheese, all of which can be purchased at the new dairy store on the Appleton Farms property.

Hannaway reminds that the store will be focused on dairy.  “It’s not to compete with but to compliment local agriculture in the community.  The cheese operation teaches how you can use land to compliment community.”   – those beautiful Appleton Farms meadows have economic and cultural value beyond the pleasures of landscape.

Along with Appleton Farms milk (skim, 1%, and whole) and staple dairy products – triple creme cheese, cheddar, cultured butter, and non-cultured butter, herbed rounds, and occasional surprises like fresh ricotta or Asiago –  the store will also support local vendors:  Topsfield cheesemaker, Valley View Farm, will be represented, maple syrup, honey, and A&J King fresh bread.  Local artwork hangs on the walls.  Of course, grass-fed beef, the other herd at Appleton Farms  – the White Park steer grazing out in the Great Pasture – is available in the dairy store, also.



Appleton Farms, 219 County Road, Ipswich, MA. Dairy Store Hours:  Monday – Friday, 11-6 and Saturday – Sunday, 10-4