s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

APPLE FEST

What: 42nd annual Gravenstein Apple Fair, with live music

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8 and Aug. 9

Where: Ragle Ranch Regional Park, Sebastopol

Cost: $14 for adults $10 for people who bike to fair ; $12 for seniors and veterans; $10 for kids 6 to 12; Free for kids 5 and under.

Farm vendors: Dutton Ranch, Harmony Farm Supply, Kozlowski Farms, Manzana Products, McClelland’s Dairy, Sonoma County Beekeepers Association, Sonoma Wool Company, Valley Ford Mercantile, Walker’s Apples.

Craft Cider makers: Devoto Orchards Cider, Gowan’s Cider, Horse & Plow, Specific Gravity Cider Company, Tilted Shed Ciderworks, Troy Cider.

Information: gravensteinapplefair.com

The sad story of Sebastopol’s Gravenstein apple, twisting in the wind on its short, stubby stem as the crop has dwindled for the past 30 years, has taken a dramatic turn thanks to the rise of the hard cider industry.

Now, instead of tearing apple orchards out for grapes, farmers are planting more apple trees to meet the growing demands of local cider makers who need a steady supply of the acidic and aromatic apples to make the refreshing, low-alcohol ciders beloved by many European countries and newly loved here.

“There’s a revival in the county with the value-added products, which is hard cider primarily,” said Carmen Snyder, executive director of Sonoma County Farm Trails, a nonprofit that cultivates community through farmer-to-farmer and farmer-to-public educational forums. “There are Gravensteins that are being planted right now at Dutton Ranch, Manzana (Products Co.), Devoto (Orchards), and others. So that’s exciting.”

This weekend, Farm Trails will host the 42nd annual Gravenstein Apple Fair at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol. If you’ve stopped by the folksy fair the past few years, you’ll know this ain’t your grandma’s apple fair anymore.

Returning to its agricultural roots, the fair now offers a “Life on the Farm” activity every half hour; a Do-It-Yourself Arena where you can learn how to make your own cheese, kimchi and beer; an array of farm-to-table culinary demonstrations in the Chef’s Tent; entertainment by local hipsters like the Hubbub Club band; and an Artisan Cheese Lounge where, for an extra fee of $25, you can enjoy pairings of local cheeses with local wines, beers and hard ciders.

New this year is the Craft Cider Tent, where the new generation of cider makers will offer tastes of 10 to 20 local ciders made from the Gravenstein apple, as well as ciders made from other varieties. The cool, refreshing ciders are the perfect anecdote to a hot August afternoon.

“People love the cider because it’s versatile,” said Jolie Devoto-Wade of Devoto Orchards Cider and Golden State Cider in Sebastopol. “You can drink it wherever, whenever, and it’s refreshing. It has that nice, crisp acidity.”

Devoto-Wade has been making hard cider with her husband, Hunter Wade, since 2012 from the apples her father, Stan Devoto, has been growing in the west county since 1976. The hard cider company now has 250 accounts in the Bay Area, with 50 percent going to bars or restaurants and 50 percent sold at retail outlets.

The growing cadre of hard cider consumers tends to be young craft-beer drinkers looking for another beverage with a hand-crafted pedigree.

“Eighty percent of the cider market is millennials, 21 to 35,” Devoto-Wade said. “About 50 percent are females and 50 percent are males.”

The couple uses the Gravenstein apples and other high-tannin apples like Arkansas Black, Pippin and Braeburn for their high-end line of Devoto Cider, which sources from Devoto Orchards and other neighbors on the ridge west of Sebastopol. It is bottled in a 750-mililliter wine bottle and goes for $12 to $14 a bottle.

“We use whatever interesting apple we can get our hands on, and it’s a huge blend,” she said. “We wanted to pay tribute to the farm where we live and where we grew up.”

The couple created a more affordable line of Golden State Cider from apples sourced from Devoto Orchards as well as other farmers in California, Oregon and Washington, so that they can produce a cider year-round. It’s made from “dessert” apple varieties such as Golden Delicious, Pink Lady and Fuji. The cider is packaged in cans, and a four-pack retails for about $12.

APPLE FEST

What: 42nd annual Gravenstein Apple Fair, with live music

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8 and Aug. 9

Where: Ragle Ranch Regional Park, Sebastopol

Cost: $14 for adults $10 for people who bike to fair ; $12 for seniors and veterans; $10 for kids 6 to 12; Free for kids 5 and under.

Farm vendors: Dutton Ranch, Harmony Farm Supply, Kozlowski Farms, Manzana Products, McClelland’s Dairy, Sonoma County Beekeepers Association, Sonoma Wool Company, Valley Ford Mercantile, Walker’s Apples.

Craft Cider makers: Devoto Orchards Cider, Gowan’s Cider, Horse & Plow, Specific Gravity Cider Company, Tilted Shed Ciderworks, Troy Cider.

Information: gravensteinapplefair.com

“People don’t want fancy ciders in general,” she said. “That’s something we learned. They want good cider that they can swig.”

In the Artisan Cheese Lounge, the Devoto “Save the Gravenstein” Cider will be served with cheese from the award-winning Tomales Farmstead Creamery in Tomales.

“Cider goes great with food,” Devoto-Wade said. “They do some really nice goat cheese, and one with cow’s milk.”

Colette Hatch of Oliver’s Markets, also known as “Madame du Fromage,” will be pairing the Specific Gravity ciders from Paul Kolling of Nana Mae’s Organics in Sebastopol with a few different cheeses. These may include such local favorites as Valley Ford Cheese Company’s supple Highway One; Nicasio Valley Cheese’s Company’s San Geronimo, a cow’s milk cheese that’s between a Fontina and a Raclette; and a goat cheese such as Samson from Pug’s Leap in Petaluma, which may or may not pair well.

“When you can do two cheeses that pair beautifully, and one that doesn’t, that’s a teaching point,” she said. “If it doesn’t pair, it’s going to make your hair curl.”

She also hopes to get her hands on some of the new, triple creme brie from the Marin French Cheese Company in Petaluma, that boasts 75 percent butterfat.

The cheese balances out the acidity of the cider, and the acidity of the cider balances out the butterfat,” she said. “So it’s a good marriage.”

Meanwhile, the Chef’s Tent will feature an array of farm-to-table chefs and beverage experts creating interesting cocktails and shrubs, savory soups and fritters, along with the classic preserves from grandma’s cupboard: applesauce and apple butter.

“The thing I love about Gravensteins is that they are so versatile,” said Daniel Kedan of Backyard restaurant in Forestville, who will be serving Apple Bacon Hush Puppies. “They are very good for the sweet kitchen, but just as great for the savory.”

Jeremy Whitcomb of The Odd Couple Catering in Forestville will be preparing another savory dish: Parsnip and Gravenstein Apple Soup, an inexpensive dish perfect for moms trying to feed their families. For added complexity, he deglazes the pan with some hard cider and adds a splash of apple cider vinegar.

“We’re incorporating all things apple in the dish,” he said. “And the garnish is haroset, a condiment from the Passover dinner made with apples, walnuts, cinnamon, sugar and a little sweet red wine.”

At Rocker Oysterfeller’s in Valley Ford, chef/owner Brandon Guenther serves the Applegarden Farm hard cider from Tomales, and in the fall, the bar menu includes an Apple-Julep, a bourbon drink made with apple syrup instead of simple syrup.

“We have our own trees in front of our restaurant,” he said. “So we get our own Gravensteins.”

This recipe is from Daniel Kedan of Backyard in Forestville, who will give a demo at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at the apple fair.

Apple Bacon Hush Puppies

Serves 8 to 10 as side dish

½ cup diced bacon, rendered (save the fat)

2 ounces melted bacon fat

1 cup diced Gravenstein apples

2 cups cornmeal

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2¼ cups buttermilk

1 quart oil (rice bran, canola, vegetable

Render the bacon in a skillet and save all fo the fat. When the bacon is mostly rendered, strain the fat, reserve the bacon, and put the fat back in the pan. Add the diced apples t and cook 3 to 4 minutes until tender.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the eggs and buttermilk together. Add the eggs and buttermilk to the dry ingredients. When almost combined, add the cooked apples and bacon. Heat the oil in a small pot to 350 degrees. Add dollops of the batter to the oil and fry until golden and delicious. Strain on a towel to dry. Serve immediately.

The following recipe is from Jeremy Whitcomb of The Odd Couple Catering in Forestville, who will give a demo at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, at the apple fair.

Parsnip and Gravenstein Apple Soup with Haroset

Serves 8 to 12

For soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 yellow onions, medium dice

1½ pounds parsnips, peeled, large dice

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled, minced

1 pint local hard cider, such as Nana Mae’s Wildside

1 pound Gravenstein apples, peeled, cored, large dice

2 pints chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup heavy cream (optional)

— Salt, grated nutmeg and apple cider vinegar to taste

For haroset:

2 Gravenstein apples, peeled, cored, small dice

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled, grated

1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground

3 tablespoon local honey

¼ cup kosher red wine (Manichevitz)

— Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

For soup: In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat, add the oil and butter. Once the butter is melted, add the diced onions and begin to sweat them. AS the onions start to cook, season them with salt and a few scrapes of fresh nutmeg. Once the onions begin to color around the edges, add the minced ginger and he diced parsnips and begin to cook, stirring frequently. Once the parsnips begin to color around the edges, and you can smell the ginger, add the pint of your favorite local, hard cider and reduce by half. Once the cider is reduced, add your choice of stock and cover with a lid. Check the doneness of the parsnips by inserting a sharp knife into a large piece. If it goes in without any resistance, the parsnips are fully cooked and ready to be pureed.

Working in batches, ladle the hot soup very carefully to the blender and puree until desired consistency. after blending, if you prefer a smoother soup, pass the hot soup through a fine mesh strainer. Once all the soup has been pureed, add the heavy cream to round the flavors and then season the soup with salt, more fresh grated nutmeg and apple cider vinegar.

For haroset: combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, season and serve on top of soup.

This recipe is from Joanne Neft, author of “The Art of Real Food.” Neft opened the first Foothill Farmers’ Market in Placer County in 1989. She will give a demo at noon Sunday, Aug. 9 at the apple fair.

The World’s Best Applesauce

Serves 6

4 pounds cooking apples, peeled and quartered (save peelings)

1 cup fresh, unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice

½ lemon, peeled, peelings julienned

¼ cup lemon juice (from peeled lemon

1 cinnamon stick, 4 inches long

⅓ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Place apple peels in 2-quart sauce pan. Add ¼ to ⅓ cup apple juice. Cover and simmer 1 hour, or until peels can be easily pierced with a kitchen fork. (After 20 minutes check to make sure there is enough juice in the pan so peelings do not burn; add more juice if necessary.)

Remove pan from heat and cool slightly; puree apple peelings iwth a hand blender. Set aside. Place quartered apples, lemon peel, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugars, salt and remaining apple juice in a large sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until apples are falling apart. Remove from heat; remove cinnamon stick and lemon peelings. Mash apples roughly with a potato masher. Gently fold pureed apple peelings into apples until well blended.

To serve: Place ½ cup applesauce in small bowls; top with a teaspoon of creme fraiche or a sprinkle of crystallized ginger chips.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

gravenstein FACTS

How it got here: Believed to have originated in Italy, the yellow and red apple migrated to Denmark in the 17th century and was brought to California by Russian fur traders, who landed in Fort Ross around 1820. The large apple trees took hold in Sebastopol in the late 1800s, where a combination of cool weather and deep, alluvial soil allowed them to be dry-farmed.

Where it’s grown: The Gravenstein is still a favorite apple in northern Europe. It is also cultivated in Nova Scotia and Oregon as well as Sebastopol.

Claim to fame: The earliest apple variety to ripen, Gravensteins hit their heyday before there was cold storage, and people prized its distinct flavor as a harbinger of fall. In the mid-1900s, there were 16,000 acres of Gravenstein apples growing in Sebastopol. They were dried and processed into applesauce and shipped overseas to the troops during World War II.

Fall from grace: When the bottom fell out of the processed apple market in the 1980s, the Gravenstein was gradually squeezed out by the pressures of Chinese competition, suburban development and the lucrative wine-grape crop.

Flavor: The apples have a balanced, sweet but tart flavor, with some acidity, which makes them ideal for pies and applesauce, juice and cider.

Downfall: They have short stubby stems, so they fall off the trees, bruise easily and have a short shelf life. The apples are produced during a small window of three weeks, making them ideal for preserving. But with the demise of home canning and preserving in the 1960s and 1970s, they lost their luster.

The comeback: After years of efforts to preserve the apple by the Russian River Slow Food Convivium, the Gravenstein apple was placed on Slow Foods’ Ark of Taste in 2013. The rise of the hard cider industry and organic apples in the last few years has also made Gravenstein apples more attractive, with new trees now being planted in Sebastopol.

Show Comment