August 17, 2012

Summer Special - Gravenstein Apples

Guest Blog Post and Recipes by Georgeanne Brennan
Article previously featured in Edible Marin and Wine Country Magazine, reprinted here with permission.  Chutney recipe from Brennan's The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook

Fall Fruit Chutney Recipe from the Davis Farmers Market Cookbook
Fruit Chutney with Stonefruit and Apples (recipe below)

Every season produces something unique, unavailable at any other time of the year, and in summer in our area, one of those is the Gravenstein apple. The Gravenstein is an apple so notable for its flavor that it has been declared to be a heritage food by Slow Food USA, but unfortunately, one in danger of disappearing. The largest United States planting of the Gravenstein is around the town of Sebastopol, but the quantity is much diminished from years past, when the variety dominated the substantial apple production in Sonoma County.

Like so many other flavorful fruits and vegetables, the Gravenstein doesn’t hold well in storage, nor does it ship well, and consequently it has been dropped by many large buyers and shippers in favor of sturdier fruits.  Only in recent years are we discovering the loss to both our agricultural heritage and to our tables of many of the old-fashioned or heirloom fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, dedicated farmers are bringing them back into production with the hope that educated consumers, looking for true taste and flavor, will seek out and buy these special fruits and vegetables. 

The Gravenstein, thought to have been brought to the area by Russian settlers and fur traders around the first part of the 19th century, certainly fits this description.

It has true apple flavor, balanced between slightly sweet and acidic, with a juicy crunch that, to my thinking, is the essence of a good apple. It’s a lovely waxy green, with red striations, or sometimes pure red, and one of its many virtues is that it is equally good eaten out of hand, cooked, or turned into cider.  The Gravenstein season is short, essentially July and August, so plan ahead, and make sure you get your fill of one of California’s finest fruits.

My son, recently back from Bulgaria, where any fruit with sugar was considered worthy of turning into rakia, is promising to make some with Gravenstein apples this year. His navel orange rakia was a stunning success and we’re looking forward to the apple version. For me, I’ll stick to eating them out of hand or frying them with onions to serve with sausages.

Fried Apples, Onions, and Sausages

Featured in Edible Marin and Wine Country Magazine
by Georgeanne Brennan

2 tablespoons butter
4 Gravenstein apples, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
1 large onion, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 fennel or other favorite sausage

Heat the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. When it foams, add the apples and sauté until the underside is golden, about 7 minutes. Turn, add the onions to the pan and continue to sauté until the second side of the apples is golden and the onions are limp and golden, another, 5 minutes or so. While the apples and onions are cooking, cook the sausages in your favorite fashion.

Serve the hot sausages accompanied by the hot apples and onions.
Serves 4 

Fall Fruit Chutney

Featured in The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook
by Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans

2 pounds stone fruit such as plums, nectarines, pluots, chopped  coarsely
1 pound apples, chopped coarsely
1/2 pound yellow onion, chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 green jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped finely
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy metal pan such as a Dutch oven. Bring mixture to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook mixture until all ingredients are soft and blended, about 3 hours. Mix frequently toward the end to prevent burning.

Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick.

To can, place lids with rubber seal into a small sauce pan with about 1 cup of boiling water in it. Soften the lids for about 2 minutes, and turn off heat. Ladle the hot mixture into sterilized pint jars, filling up to ½ - ¼ inch below the top. With a clean cloth, wipe the rim of the jar so that it is clean. Place lid on the rim of the jar. Screw on the ring, fairly tight. Place in a water-bath canner with water covering the jars by about 1-2 inches. Bring water to a boil. Process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water. Let cool. You should hear a popping sound as this occurs. Prior to putting away the chutney, check each seal by pressing down on the lid. It should not give. Label with name of product and date made.

Makes 2-3 pints

Georgeanne Brennan is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and food policy consultant with a distinguished culinary and business career spanning several decades. As a principal of Evans & Brennan, LLC , she has been working over the past several years piloting professional development with the Davis JUSD, focusing specifically on enhancing the skills and creativity of the nutrition services staff using the 6-5-4 School Lunch Matrix. The author of more than 30 books on cooking and food, and a cooking school owner and teacher, she brings her considerable expertise to Rethinking School Lunch in rural and urban settings.