Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Local Sweet Specialty

Gravenstein apples were once the mainstay of agriculture in Sonoma County, along with hops, chickens and eggs. They are suited to this area because they are drought tolerant and we get very little summer rain. They are a beautiful apple with a green skin streaked with red striation. The flesh is white and the apples don’t keep and bruise easily, so they don’t ship or store well like Red Delicious and Pippin, for example.

One of the things that Gravenstein apples are superior for is applesauce. They cook down easily and retain a nice tartness and strong apple flavor. You can purchase Gravenstein applesauce at some Trader Joe’s, but as wine grapes have been slowly taking over the county, the number of apple ranches has diminished to a very small number.

The Arc of Taste, a project of Slow Foods, which is preserving endangered food products, one species at a time, includes the Gravenstein apple among them. To read more about it, go to :

I am fortunate enough to have a large old Gravenstein apple tree on my property. I don’t spray, so the apples are not perfect and not for sale, but I do try to make some applesauce every year with the apples. This is my entry to the SHF event for August hosted this month by the Passionate Cook. The apples show in the photo above were early, (I couldn't wait for them to be fully ripe), so you don't see much red on the skin. The apple sauce was a bit tarter than when they are fully ripe as they are right now. This photo was taken right before I mashed them into a tasty, chunky sauce.

Gravensteins also make a stunning apple pie. Because they soften so much while cooking, even when you pile them high in the pie, by the time that you serve it the top crust arches over a space before you reach those lovely sweet tart cooked apples.

This weekend in Sebastopol is the annual Apple Fair, dedicated to the Gravenstein apple. If you get there, be sure to purchase one of the apple pies baked by the folks at the Community church. They have been making hundreds of pies for the fair for years and years. Also, look for Walker Apple Ranch apples. They are one of the handful of farmers still growing Gravensteins for sale. Then you can make your own authentic Gravenstein Applesauce.

Gravenstein Applesauce
4-5 large apples, peeled or unpeeled, stem and core removed, cut into 1” chunks
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the apple chunks, water, sugar and cinnamon, Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the apples are soft and tender. If you like chunky apple sauce, mash with a potato masher. The applesauce is now ready to eat warm, or you can cool it. For smoother applesauce, put the apple mixture through a food mill. The smooth applesauce is now ready to eat warm or cooled.

Gravenstein Apple Fair
Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol, CA
Aug 11 (10 am – 6 pm) & Aug 12 (10 am – 5 pm)
Live music, free parking, no pets
Admission: Adults - $10, Seniors - $8, age 6-12 - $5, under 6 – free
Sponsored by Sonoma County Farm Trails


  1. Awww, nuts. I'd have loved to have gone to the fair in Sebastopol! When we lived in Sonoma County (Santa Rosa) it was a favorite! Glad to hear that you've still got an old tree. Also, if you check out you might find some other people who're preserving apples, particularly the older varieties. :)

  2. Gravenstein eh? That sounds Dutch to me haha. I love making applesauce, the smell in the house...mmm yum!

  3. talk about eating local! what a wonderful way to use what you have around

  4. Anonymous10:39 AM

    I wonder if my local Fresh Market will be able to get them. It's sad that they don't store or ship well I would really love to try them.

  5. Apples are so versatile in the kitchen, Elle - delicious recipe!

  6. wow... these look just like the ones outside my window. i doubt that my farmer is growing the same variety, maybe it's just because organically grown apples looks so much different than your average granny smith!
    your apple sauce sounds like a treat - thanks for your contribution to SHF!

  7. Applesauce, mmm. Your basket of apples are so pretty too =)

  8. Davimack, wish you had been at the fair. Didn't know that you used to live in SR. I've been to the place in Healdsburg area that grows heirloom trees. Went to a tasting and fell in love with Pink Pearls. Thank for the link. I'll check it out.

    Karen, I think it's Russian...the Russians were here in this area first. I love the smell, too.

    Connie, Yeah I'm fortunate. I lost 3 apple trees since we moved here, but this one is going strong.

    Veron, you could ask for them and see what happens. Otherwise the applesauce at Trader Joe's is great.

    Patricia, thanks. I have a couple of good apple cake recipes, but no time to bake right now.

    Johanna, this is probably a variation of other varieties that look similar. The photo doesn't show the blemishes and occasional worm hole...but they are there. :)

  9. Lovely, tart, delicate apples, that's for sure.

  10. Mmm, I love me some homemade applesauce. I especially love it with pork. This is something I need to flag.

  11. Anonymous1:06 PM

    I have a Gravenstein apple tree in my backyard in Santa Rosa. I am so happy to find out I can make applesauce without peeling them! So happy I found your website.

  12. Anonymous11:23 PM

    Mmmm applesauce.. Pass the pork please! :)