August begins the apple season here in Sonoma County. The first to ripen is the heirloom Gravenstein, a native old soul around these parts. Slow Food USA has added the Gravenstein Apple to it’s list of “endangered” foods. Most of the orchards have been farming apples here for at least 100 years. Vineyards are a much more profitable venture and many have moved their crops into grapes to pay the bills. Slow Food wants to support the farms that are cultivating this precious heirloom crop, so one day it does not become extinct. You can read more about the US Presidia : Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple here.
The first orchard I decided to visit was Walker Apples at a hilltop farm off a windy dirt road, just past the little town of Graton. The Walker family has been farming fifty acres of apples in West County for at least 100 years. I had the pleasure of meeting Sue, her father Lee Walker owns the farm, which was started by his dad in the early 1900’s.
The farm is open for business from Late July through November. They grow over twenty-five varieties of apples. Gravensteins being the earliest crop starting to ripen in August. Some other varieties at Walker Apples are Greening, Bellflower, Winter Banana, York Imperial, Ben Davis, Arkansas Black and Winter Permaine.
Walker Apples is selling the Gravensteins for $1 per pound, $15 a 1/2 bushel (20 pounds), or $25 a bushel (40 pounds). A real deal buying them farm fresh when you consider at the local stores they are at least $3.99 per pound. We bought 1/2 a bushel. All the way home all I could think was what am I going to make with all these apples.
Well I decided to make an Apple Pie…What a better way to celebrate the first whispers of Autumn. The leaves on the trees are just beginning to change color and the valley has been shrouded in a thick cloud of fog more often than not. And, we have officially reached for the first sweaters of the season for the walk to school in the morning.
Every time I make a pie crust I feel like experimenting, you think I would find one recipe and stick with it. Nope not me. I decided to try
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3 ounces) organic vegetable shortening
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
7 tablespoons ice water
I did not follow the directions to make this by hand, which is how it is stated in the book. Alternatively, I placed all ingredients, except ice water in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until mixture looks like coarse meal and the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. With the machine running slowly add water until dough just barely comes together. Remove from bowl. Place on a lightly floured surface, divide mixture into two equal portions. Wrap in plastic wrap, pressing the dough into disks. Chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
Roll out your bottom crust and place in a pie tin. Roll out top crust and place on a sheet place lined with parchment paper until you are ready to use. Keep both rolled out pie crusts chilled in the refrigerator until you are ready to fill.
Time to prep your apples. Sue at the Walker Apple Farm said that these Gravensteins were so sweet this year and that no sugar was needed in the filling. Hooray! No sugar…
10 apples,cored, peeled and sliced aprox 1/2-inch thick
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
few dabs of butter
Mound up your apple filling in the chilled pie crust, place the dabs of butter around the top of the filling. Cover with the second pie dough top. I like to moisten the edge of the pie dough in the tin with a little water on my finger tips, this helps the top and bottom crusts to stick together better. Press all the way around, I like to fold top crust under bottom and then make a nice finger crimping design around the edge.
To bake preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Using 1 egg and a splash of water, give your pie a little egg wash and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, if so desired. This just gives the finished pie a really lovely shine and color. Cut some vent holes in the top of the pie.
And… yes… there are two pies there. I baked one for my dear friend’s birthday and of course one for my husband. Poor guy with all this baking he may have to join a gym or take up running.
So bake your pies for 15 minutes at 425 degrees and then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Place in the lower third of your oven. If you have a pizza stone bake pie directly on top this helps to have a nice brown crust on the bottom of your pie. Make sure to place some tin foil or a sheet pan underneath to catch any bubbling juices.
This was the first Gravenstein apple pie I have ever made, but it definitely will not be the last. The apples were so sweet, buttery, tender and they held up there shape. A great cooking apple…Of course I still have more apples…
10955 Upp Road