It doesn’t get much better than autumn in north central Massachusetts. Tourists flock out this way by the thousands (I can attest to this firsthand, as I had the pleasure of their company driving home from my job in Boston on Friday evening!), but we’re the lucky ones who get to live out here to truly appreciate every colorful moment. I spent today driving around with the top down, enjoying the foliage, and taking advantage of some of the local offerings that people living elsewhere can only buy from inauthentic, often pretentious markets at inflated prices.
I’ve written about some of my favorite spots in the past, such as Crystal Brook Farm, Wachusett Brewery, and Rota Springs Ice Cream, while others, such as Marshall Farm, are so much a part of my routine that I realize a post is long overdue, but today I had the pleasure of visiting Sulin Orchard (located at 885 Fisher Road in Fitchburg) for the first time. I learned of this orchard from a recent article in the Fitchburg Pride, and I won’t rehash here the history that was so well covered in the article. It was impossible to resist visiting a place that has been under the ownership of the same family for 100 years – that’s an impressive accomplishment for any business, but farms and orchards have been under particular pressure in recent years to sell off property for a quick and easy profit, and those owners who resist are certainly to be commended…and supported!
The orchard’s owner was hard at work when we arrived, but he quickly came over to supply us with a bag for pick-your-own apples. The orchard was a peaceful spot filled with well-tended trees bursting with bright red apples; there was even a picnic table nestled among the trees for those who wanted to linger. My husband and I realized that because Sulin Orchard is not located on a hillside like so many other orchards, all of the apples are exposed to a significant amount of sun, causing them to ripen quite nicely. In addition to apples, we stocked up on homegrown butternut squash and pumpkins as well as honey produced from onsite beehives.
My favorite discovery, however, was the Sulin Orchard Cookbook. I don’t know about your family, but special recipes in my family tend to be rather closely guarded, and we certainly don’t have enough to fill a 160-page book. Yet the Sulins have chosen to share an incredible selection of their family recipes that make the most of apples and honey as ingredients. I definitely don’t consider cooking to be one of my hobbies, but I just curled up with this cookbook and flipped through every page from front to back. I have no idea how to prioritize which recipes to try first, but some of the top contenders include fried apple rings, fruit and spinach salad, squash and apple soup, apple stuffed acorn squash, apple meringue, caramel apple nut pie, miniature apple turnovers, Dutch apple pancakes, applesauce brownies, apple hermits, any of several apple breads and muffins, maple pecan pie, honey spice balls, and the strawberry chocolate tart. I may just have to open to a page at random and go with that.
I’m off to the kitchen – I hope everyone is enjoying the season!