A Photo Tour: Apple Picking at Brooksby Farm

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I have a peck and a half of apples sitting on my kitchen counter. There are Macouns. Red Delicious. Courtlands. I know I’ll probably make some kind of pie or rustic tart, but I’ll still have a bunch leftover.

What’s your favorite way to prepare apples in the fall? I’m definitely looking for ideas.

Let me back up
So yesterday was one of those fabulous, sweater-y fall days. It was on the cool side and plenty sunny—the perfect weather to go apple picking. The Angry Chef and I piled into the car with the dog, picked up our dear friends the Lady Otter and D. Bunnyhunter, and headed north.

Now, our original destination was Smolak Farms in North Andover, MA. The Angry Chef and I have been there a handful of times. It’s quaint. It’s New England-y. It has hay rides, cider donuts, and a petting zoo.

When we arrived yesterday, however, it was absolutely overrun with tourists and other leaf-peeping types. There were lines. There was one of those carnival bouncy houses. There was a cop directing traffic.

As we stood by our car surveying the scene, we decided to pass. We’re really happy for the farm’s success, but it just didn’t look like the laid-back afternoon we were after.

We jumped back in the car, and used the GPS map feature on my iPhone to find one of the next closest orchards: Brooksby Farm, in Peabody.

And man, am I glad we did. It had everything we were looking for, minus the mob scene. If you’ve never been to New England in the fall, the pictures that follow will give you a really good idea of what it’s like.

About Brooksby Farm
The farm is a 275-acre apple orchard and conservation area managed by the city of Peabody. There are some neat historic buildings on the property, including Smith Barn and the Felton-Smith House, the oldest house in Peabody, built in 1644. You can tour and rent both for weddings and other festivities.

Get to the apples already, would ya?
Yep, yep. One sec. We swung by the petting zoo quickly first. There were a handful of animals, including a few sheep, goats, and a llama. Dexter also encountered his first-ever emu. But when Emu #1 called Emu #2 over to size him up, we headed up into the orchard.

We skipped the hay ride and decided to poke around the orchard on foot.

Apples, apples, and more apples
The countryside was out-of-control beautiful.

The trees were thick with fruit, though most of the apples we saw seemed to be slightly on the smaller side.

This was the tiniest one we found.

Off to the farm stand
When our bags were full, we headed back down to the farm stand. As we approached, we could smell the cider doughnuts cooking halfway across the parking lot.

They had a really neat old cider press sitting just inside the door to the market.

Inside, dozens of wooden crates were piled high with all kinds of goodies.

There were loads of fresh produce, from tomatoes to almost any kind of root veggie you can imagine.

And of course, bags of many different types of apples.

They also had a strangely enticing bin of crab apples. I wondered what in the world you might cook with these. Quite a bit, as it turns out.

They also had a mind-boggling array of homemade jams, preserves, salsas, chutneys, pickled vegetables, and apple-flavored barbecue sauces. I’ve never been much of a canner, but this really kind of inspired me.

I think I’m definitely putting pumpkin butter on list of things to make in the coming months. This looked so good.

Both these barbecue sauces have apples or apple cider in them. I’m definitely going to experiment with a homemade version.

And let’s not forget the baked goods.
The market had a few cases of pies, as well as a giant cider doughnut display in back.

They even had a few baskets of fresh dog biscuits.

Odds and ends
Brooksby Farm also sells a bunch of other stuff, from candles to pumpkins painted for Halloween.

The canned brown bread caught my eye. This is an old New England thing that I’ve never made. (You actually bake the bread in a empty coffee can.) If you want to give it a whirl on your own, the Food Network has a decent looking recipe for Boston Brown Bread.

I also spotted Mr. Popping Cob‘s popcorn on the cob. According the wrapper, you put the corn cob in semi-covered glass bowl and stick it in the microwave for a few minutes. The corn pops right off the cob.

And that concludes our tour
So tell me�now that you’ve seen just where they came from�what do you think I should do with all these apples?


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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

23 COMMENTS

  1. mmmmmmmm cider donuts! I’ll scrounge around and see if I can’t find a recipe or two to help you use some of those beautiful apples 🙂
    -emily
    (MyricaRubra/Chicago Dining)

  2. Oh, by the way, here are some suggestions on what you should do with the apples:

    1. Jellied apples

    2. Cut into small pieces and serve with chocolate fondue

    3. Apple pie

    4. An apple a day, keeps the doctor away…heheheh..that’s what I usually do, I eat it as it is everyday.

  3. Oooooh leftover apples? Why don’t ya slice some, poach them, make a nice caramel sauce and use em to top ice cream!

    Orrr my favie is to take a light cake like thinly sliced pound cake or yellow butter cake, make a whip cream/cream cheese mixture and sandwich the two slices of cake with that and then top it off with the poached fruit and sauce….you could trifle this too!

    Mmmm…getting hungry goob!

  4. Incoming Trifle Idea:

    Layers-
    1. Light cake of your choice cut in cubes.

    2. Caramel Coffee Liquer to be drizzled on cake.

    3. Sliced and Poached Apples.

    4. Mixture of Whipped cream, Cream Cheese, and a little sugar to your preference.

    5.Caramel Sauce to drizzle on Whipped Cream mixture.

    If you wanted a little bit of crunch to the trifle you could add a variety of things : any kind of nuts you like or a box of apple crisp mix spread on a cookie sheet with some of the leftover caramel sauce and left to harden. Broken up into bits you’d get a little bit of a caramel crisp in every bite. =)

    Last but not least some people like to add pudding to their trifles, but it’s hit or miss. Sometimes it makes it too rich and other times it’s just right. Once again it’s your choice. Trifles are awesome desserts for leftover ingredients. =)

  5. Emily–Yeah, I don’t know why cider doughnuts are SO good. 😀

    Foong–Thanks! And thanks for the ideas. Chocolate fondue sounds really good right about now! (Gosh, what’s wrong with me? It’s 11 in the morning!)

    Be Foodie–Thanks so much! Glad you liked the pics. 😀

    Christina–Thanks, hon! Thoughts of that trifle have me drooling a little bit! I’ll give it a try.

    Haley–Apple butter is a great idea! Do you make it yourself?

    Zesty–Hehe, ’tis the season for apple picking. Thanks!

    Jo–Thanks, hon!

    +Jessie

  6. LOL! We went to Smolak last weekend and won’t go back for the reasons you mentioned. This place in Peabody is actually closer to us, so we’ll have to keep it in mind next year. Have you tried Russell Orchards in Ipswich?

    As for favorite things to do with my apples besides pie:

    1) Apple-walnut bread – a quick bread (I have a recipe if you want, but it’s basically a pretty standard quick bread)
    2) Apple-cake made with calvados or apple-jack. I am basically kicking myself for forgetting to save this recipe on the bag that they gave us to pick apples last year (some place near Stow). It was amazing and I haven’t yet found something quite the same.
    3) Savory applesauce made with caramelized onions, applesauce, and, if you dare, some sage, fennel or similar flavors. This goes great with pork roast. No recipe. I just do what feels right at the time and based on the natural sweetness of the apples and onions.

  7. Mamaboolj–That’s too funny. We’ve noticed that Smolak has been doing a lot of advertising on TV this season…especially on the Food Network. Maybe that’s why they’re so busy these days. I’m glad they’re busy. It’s just not our cup of tea. Haven’t tried Russell, but will definitely check it out! Thanks for the tip. Do try Brooksby. It’s definitely worth the trip.

    And thanks for all the apple ideas! That savory applesauce sounds divine!

    +Jessie

  8. They had lots of goodies. The Smokey Apple barbecue sauce looks intriguing! Lots of great, creative ideas here, I know you’ll make some out of this world yummies!

  9. Boston Brown Bread (steamed) is both easy to make and fabulous. It’s a great way to use up excess buttermilk when one’s gotten some for a recipe and wonders what to do with the rest.

  10. Reeni–They totally had all sorts of yummy stuff. I’ll definitely write about it if I try the smokey BBQ sauce. I’m really intrigued by that one…

    Cissa–Thanks for stopping by! Great tip for the steamed bread.

    +Jessie

  11. Thanks for the post. I was looking at going here this weekend and was glad to see you liked it.

    One question… You mentioned your took your dog – do they allow dogs while picking apples? I wanted to bring my two dogs as well if possible.

    Thanks!
    Cassandra

    • Hey Cassandra!

      Yep, we had no problem bringing our dog. We had him out in the orchard, didn’t bring him into their store. He had a blast!

      Hope you have a great time!
      +Jessie

  12. Brooksby hasn’t returned our phone calls, answered our email or facebook message as to whether or not you can bring your dog on a leash into the orchard to pick the apples. I am assuming since you show your dog on a leash that it is acceptable??? Maybe you’ll answer me faster,,haha.

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