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Gravenstein Apple Fair

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 12-13

Where: Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol.

Cost: $8-$15.

Info: 707-837-8896, gravensteinapplefair.com

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Artisan Tasting Lounge

When: Saturday, Aug. 12

Cost: $20

Info: gravensteinapplefair.com/artisan-tasting-lounge


This month, the 44th annual Gravenstein Apple Fair, which bills itself as “the sweetest little fair in Sonoma County,” is going to get a lot sweeter, thanks to the sweetest little elixir in the world.

This year’s theme, “In Praise of Pollinators,” will celebrate the busy honey bees of the world while providing fair-goers with a chance to savor a tasty array of honey-infused products, from ciders and cocktails to salads and desserts.

And, if you’ve never tasted a wine made from honey before, don’t miss the tasting booth of Heidrun Meadery of Point Reyes Station, who will provide sips of their unusual, sparkling meads. For true mead heads, there’s even a make-your-own mead workshop in the DIY tent.

Honey, like wine and olive oil, is an ancient food that was prized by the Egyptians for its healthy properties, both inside and outside the body. As a culinary obsession, it has stood the test of time. From adding it to a cheese plate to stirring it into your tea, honey has proven itself versatile and healing ingredient.

In Sonoma County, many farmers market and small farmstands in Sonoma County offer local honeys that provide an array of different flavors, depending on when and how it was harvested and the trifecta of soil, water and climate terroir.

Bill MacElroy of Monte-Bellaria di California in west Sebastopol cares for six colonies of bees that he keeps right in the middle of his oldest lavender field. He makes lavender honey packaged it in 4-ounce jars and sometimes sells his lavender honey to mead and cider makers.

“The honey we produce is almost monofloral, almost all lavender, and it has a very distinct taste to it,” MacElroy said. “It has almost a savory characteristic to it ... it tastes sweet, but it has an aftertone of herb.” At the apple fair, the Monte-Bellaria di California honey will be featured in a limited edition cider from Tilted Shed Ciderworks called the Gravenstein Honey Cider. The small-batch cider was made specifically for the apple fair as it combines both the heirloom apples and a local honey.

“We made 15 cases, and it’ll be released at the Gravenstein Apple Fair at the Cider Tent and the Artisan Tasting Lounge,” said Ellen Cavalli, co-owner of Tilted Shed. “It’s a naturally sparkling, dry cider made from 100 percent organic Gravensteins from Sebastopol ... bottle conditioned with Monte-Bellaria’s lavender honey.”

At Monte-Bellaria, MacElroy said he enjoys growing healthy, local products like honey, which has such a low water content that it almost never goes bad. According to “The Honey Connoisseur” by C. Marina Marchese and Kim Flottum, a clay vessel with honey was excated in 1922 from the tomb of Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamen, and it was still completely preserved, still amost liquid and with its original sweet, aroma.

“This is one of the reasons why honey is very good for you,” MacElroy said. “It has all these wonderful antioxidants and antibiotics, and it’s a part of healthy living.”

While honey has been used to treat wounds and sore throats for thousands of years, modern honey bees have been struggling to survive amid the encroachments of human civilization.

Some local beekeepers believe it may be starvation that is causing the colony collapse disorder among bees. These days, there is less natural clover and thistle to sustain the bees as a food source.

According to MacElroy, the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association, which will be at the apple fair, is on a mission to persuade local residents to increase plants that bloom late into the late summer, in order to help support in the local bees.

“By August, there’s often nothing to eat,” MacElroy said. “So by the fall, the colony starves to death.”

Scott Bice, farm manager for Capracopia farm in Sebastopol (formerly Redwood Hill Farm), tends an orchard of apples and other fruit trees along with blackberries and wildflowers that he planted specifically for the farm’s bee colonies. So far, his tactic seems to be working.

“We’ve lost some hives — everybody does,” he said. “But out of 10 hives last year, we only lost one. Some people lose 40 to 50 percent.”

Capracopia harvested some honey this spring but it is already sold out, thanks to their annual spring farm tours, but in the future, the farm hopes to team up with local cider makers like Horse & Plow in Sebastopol to create a honey apple cider. The farm has also started to grow hops to supply local brewers with fresh, local hops, including the Centennial variety, an aromatic hops that imparts floral flavors.

“Horse & Plow wants to do an estate cider with our apples, honey and hops,” Bice said. “They are already getting our hops and honey.”

Rob Hogencamp of Three Leaves Foods, a community-supported kitchen in Santa Rosa, has served as a long-time ambassador for honey as a well-known chef who cooks healthy food. He has a tablespoon of honey at every night before he goes to sleep.

“It helps you have restorative sleep, and that helps you rejuvenate yourself,” he said. “It’s a nice little treat as well.

At the apple fair, he will give a demonstration of an Apple and Celery Salad, mixed with housemade kimchee, and drizzled with honey.

“We do a lot of fermented foods as well, so I wanted to incorporate those,” he said. “You can make the kimchi yourself, or buy it.”

When he worked as the chef at the Ceres Community Project, Hogencamp used to make Turmeric Tea, which incorporates the spice turmeric with finely ground black pepper and some honey.

“If I’m a little sore from work, I’ll use that in hot water as a tea,” he said. “And the honey makes a nice base for that.”

At Bee Run Hollow farm, chef/owners Daniel Kedan and Marianna Gardenhire of Backyard restaurant have been keeping bees and making honey for the past year. The bees are flourishing amid a diverse blend of vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.

Growing up in a Greek-American family, Gardenhire has always eaten lots of honey, and now, she is falling in love with beekeeping as well.

“My family comes from Sparta, and you don’t have refined sugar, you have honey and figs,” she said. “What I enjoy about honey is that there are so many uses for it. More people are making mead and truffle honeys, and there are all kinds of savory applications.”

For the Gravenstein Apple Fair, Gardenhire is going to demonstrate how to fry Loukoumades, a traditional Greek dessert that is made from a yeasted dough and dipped into honey. As a twist, she will be adding Gravenstein apples cut into small cubes.

“Traditionally, you fry the dough,” she said. “Then you dump the balls in a pot of hot honey and water ... and sprinkle them with powdered sugar.”

And the flavors and color varies widely according to the time of year and the kind of flowers and trees where the bees were foraging and gathering nectar.

“Mine tastes citrusy and minty, because they were eating off the eucalyptus and the pine in the spring,” Gardenire said.

As a beekeeper, Gardenhire has gained a new appreciation for these “amazing little bee-ings” who just want to work as a team, whether they are foraging for food or taking care of the queen, moving honey or building combs.

“Once you put bees on your property, and you plant other things, you’ll increase the hummingbirds and butterflies,” Gardenhire said. “Everything feels more alive ... it’s magical.”

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This cocktail from Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol will be served in the Artisan Tasting Lounge during the Gravenstein Apple Fair. You can use their Barrel Gin, your favorite gin or your favorite whiskey. This Prohibition-Era cocktail, named after Prohibition-era slang meaning “the best,” is made from gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey. You can serve a lemon peel as an optional garnish,

The Bee’s Knees

Makes 1 serving

2 ounces Spirit Works Barrel Gin

3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice

1/2 ounce honey syrup (1 part honey, 1 part water)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shake and fill with ice . Shake well, then strain into a cocktail glass.

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Chef/owner Marianna Gardenhire of Backyard restaurant in Forestville is going to demonstrate how to make this traditional Greek dessert at the Gravenstein Apple Fair. She will use Gravenstein apples from Rainbow’s End and wild honey from her own farm, Bee Run Hollow.

Loukoumades

Makes 6 servings

For apples:

2 tablespoons butter

4 Gravenstein apples (cut into small cubes)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

— Pinch of vanilla seeds

For dough:

2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (if using all-purpose flour, reduce mixing time by 2 minutes)

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt

For honey syrup:

1/2 cup local, wild honey

1/4 cup cold water

1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

For frying:

— Rice bran oil (GMO free)

For garnish:

— Ground cinnamon

— Powdered sugar

For apples: Place a saucepan on the stove and turn your stove to medium heat. Add butter until melted. Add in the apples and saute until they start to sweat out some of their liquid. This will take about 5 minutes.

Add in the cinnamon, lemon juice and vanilla bean to the apples. Gently toss. Reserve the apples in a bowl for later use.

For dough: In a mixer, using the whisk attachment, add half fo the flour and all of the yeast. Gently mix., Add in 3/4 cup of warm water (not above 105 degrees) to mixture. Gently mix.

Cover with a tea towel for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, make sure your mixture has bubbles. If it does not, try again. (This means your water was too hot or too cold and the yeast did not do its magic.)

Add remaining water and flour to mixture. Mix on medium speed for 8 minutes. This will help to thicken the batter.

Add in a quarter of your apple mixture, making sure there is no liquid, just the apples. Gently hand mix until incorporated.

Leaving your mixture in the bowl, Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot. Allow this mixture to double in size. This should take about 11/2 hours to 2 hours.

Honey syrup: In a pot, add the honey, cold water, orange and lemon juices. Place on stove top over medium heat. Do not allow to simmer. You are just gently heating this mixture to incorporate the ingredients.

Frying: In a frying pot, fill with oil about 2 1/2 inches deep. Place over medium/high heat. Using a thermometer, bring oil temperature to 350 degrees.

Using two spoons, or a small ice cream scooper, places small balls into the hot fry oil. Always use caution when frying. Never drop from too high up, as to not splatter hot oil on yourself or others. Fry dough on each side until golden brown (about 2 minutes). When balls are golden and puffed up, pull out of fryer with a slotted ladle. Drain balls on a paper towel or tea towel.

Assemble and serving: After drained on towel for 1 minute, drop the hot loukoumades into the warm honey mixture. (you can also drizzles the honey mixture onto the balls instead.) Top with some of the reserved Gravenstein apples and sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm.

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The following two recipes are from Rob Hogencamp, chef/owner of Three Leaves Foods in Santa Rosa.

Gravenstein Apple Salad with Kimchi and Celery

Makes 6 servings

3 Gravenstein apples

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 stalks celery

2 cups kimchi (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons honey

Thinly slice apples and celery. Toss and mix apples and celery with the kimchi and drizzle with honey.

Refrigerate and serve cold.

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You can find the Korean red pepper flakes at Asian markets such as Asia Mart on Guerneville Road.

Kimchi

Makes about 2 quarts

1 medium head (2 pounds) Napa cabbage

1/4 cup sea salt

— Water

1 tablespoon garlic, grated (5 to 6 cloves)

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

1 teaspoon coconut sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)

1/2 cup daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks

4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters and remove the cores. Cut each quarter crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips.

Place the cabbage and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit, then add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or a can of beans. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.

Rinse the cabbage under cold water a couple of times and drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting, and set it aside to use later in the recipe.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, coconut sugar, fish sauce and water in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Mix in the gochugaru.

Gently squeeze the remaining water from the Napa cabbage and return it to the bowl, along with the daikon, carrots, scallions and seasoning paste.

Using gloves, gently work the paste into the vegetable with your hands until they are thoroughly coated.

Pack the kimchi into the jar, pressing down on it until the brine rises to cover the vegetables. Leave at least 1 inch of headspace. Seal the jar with the lid.

Let the jar stand at room temperature for 1 to 5 days. Place onto a small plate to catch any liquid that bubbles out.

Check the kimchi daily, pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This will also “burp the jar” of built up gases.) After 5 to 7 days, taste a little. When the kimchi is ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but it’s best after another week or two.

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