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Apple farmers throughout Sonoma County are celebrating. Many have been picking Gravenstein apples for three weeks or so, and the 2013 crop looks good. Throughout August, we'll see them everywhere, or almost.

Many local businesses, public offices and libraries will offer free Gravensteins, as they've done for several years. This year, even the Sonoma County airport is involved: Visitors arriving in Santa Rosa will be greeted by our beloved apples, free for the taking.

Slow Food's Apple Core, a project of Russian River Slow Food, will offer fresh-pressed Gravenstein apple juice at several farmers markets, and the Gravenstein Apple Fair is coming up this weekend in Ragle Ranch Park. If you attend on Sunday, come by the cooking demonstration area at noon, where I'll be making Apple and Smoked Cheddar Chowder. (For more information on the fair, visit gravensteinapplefair.com.)

For the past 11 years, Slow Food Russian River has worked tirelessly to support our apple and its farmers. And their work has paid off, in part because they have always insisted that growers be paid for the apples that have been used in their various promotions. The group has succeeded in lifting the apple's public profile, which in turn has resulted in more sales for farmers. And although some orchards are still being replaced with vineyards, there are also new plantings, with more to come.

Gravensteins don't last long. Their season is about three-and-a-half weeks long — progressive ripening extends it a bit — and the apples don't store well. By the end of the month, most will be gone, making way for the many other varieties that ripen through December. If you want to enjoy the Gravenstein and preserve it to enjoy later, now is the time to eat it, cook it, dry it or turn it into apple butter, apple sauce, apple chutney and many other delicious condiments. You might even try your hand at making your own apple cider vinegar.

For more apple recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit "Eat This Now," this column's companion blog, at <a href="http://pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com" target="_blank">pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com</a>.

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I originally developed this sauce to go with seared foie gras, which I served atop thinly sliced and sauteed Gravenstein apples. It's one of my all-time favorite dishes but something I can enjoy only when I am cooking outside of California, now that it is all but impossible to get foie gras here. But the sauce is delicious with other foods, especially rare salmon, grilled quail, roasted chicken and pork tenderloin. Adding baked or sauteed apples alongside is always a good idea.

<strong>A Simple Sauce for Salmon, Quail, Chicken and Pork</strong>

<em> Makes about ? cup</em>

2 cups apple juice

? cup organic apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

— Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons butter, chilled

Pour the apple juice and vinegar into a small saucepan, add the peppercorns and set over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to about three-quarters cup. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Strain the sauce into a cup, discard the peppercorns and return the sauce to the pan. Immediately before serving, set over low heat, add a pinch of salt, add the butter and swirl the pan gently until the butter just melts. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

Suggested uses

Baste grilled wild King salmon with the sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking and serve the remaining sauce alongside.

Grill or saute boned quail, slather with sauce and serve over sliced apples sauteed in butter.

Roast a chicken, baste with sauce during the final 15 minutes of cooking and serve with the remaining sauce and baked apples alongside.

Make the sauce but do not add the butter. Season 2 pork tenderloins with salt and pepper, put them in a freezer bag, add about 1/3 cup of the sauce, press out the air, seal the bag and refrigerate overnight. To finish, roast the pork in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and set aside briefly. Pour the remaining sauce into a small saucepan set over low heat, add a tablespoon of butter, season with a pinch of salt and swirl until the butter melts. Remove from the heat. Cut the pork into thin diagonal slices, arrange on individual plates, spoon sauce on top and serve immediately.

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This luscious compote is delicious as a condiment alongside grilled or roasted chicken and pork, and is also excellent as a dessert, with ice cream or, as I suggest here, with cheese. I like to serve a true cider such as Apple Sauced Cider or Tilted Shed Cider alongside. The recipe calls for more compote than is needed for this dessert, as it doesn't make sense to make a small amount; you'll have plenty left over for other uses.

<strong>Gravenstein Apple & Peach Compote with Burrata cheese</strong>

<em> Makes 6 servings</em>

? cup raisins

? cup spiced rum, such as Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum

— Juice of 1 lemon

1 pound Gravenstein apples

1 cup sugar

1 pound ripe Dry Creek peaches, peeled and sliced

? cup toasted walnuts, chopped

? teaspoon ground cinnamon

— Kosher salt

1 burrata, drained

— Mint sprigs, for garnish

First, make the compote. To do so, put the raisins into a small bowl, add the rum and set aside.

Fill a bowl two-thirds full with water and add the lemon juice. Peel the apples, cut them in quarters and remove their seed cores. Put the peeled apples into the lemon water bath so that they do not turn brown. After all the apples have been cored, cut them into 1/8-inch thick slices.

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar with ? cup water (do not stir it) and set over high heat; simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken slightly. Reduce the heat to low. Drain the apples thoroughly, dry them on a tea towel, and very carefully add them to the syrup. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the apples soften slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the rum into a small saucepan and stir the raisins into the apples.

Warm the rum over medium-low heat, pour it over the apple mixture and carefully use a match to ignite it. The mixture will flame up and then die down as the alcohol is consumed by the fire.

Fold in the peaches and walnuts and simmer for 5 minutes more, until the compote comes together but the fruits are not mushy. If the apples or peaches seem a little too firm, cook 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat, add the cinnamon and 2 or 3 generous pinches of salt. Set aside to cool.

Set aside about 1 cup of compote, spoon the rest into a glass bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

To serve, set the burrata on a plate and surround it with the warm compote. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>