Gravenstein apples are one of the first varieties of apples that are ready for harvest in the late summer. With a crisp texture and tangy sweetness, Gravensteins make delicious eating apples fresh from the tree. The season is short for this apple variety, however, because they do not store well. Often considered the perfect apple for flavor, juice and texture, the Gravenstein apple is limited by its inability to ship well or to store for more than a few weeks. After the harvest, Gravenstein apples must be used within a few weeks.
As a baking apple, the Gravenstein is superior. The fruit holds its crisp texture during the cooking process without getting mushy or mealy, and the dual flavors of tartness and sweetness bring a natural, tangy flavor to the first pies of the season. The unique flavor of the Gravenstein will intensify with the cooking process.
These apples can be cut into thin slices and layered with lemon rind, walnuts and cinnamon in a pie or tart crust. At harvest time, when the apples are fresh, they can be cored, the center can be filled with cinnamon, sugar and chopped nuts, and the apple can be baked until the skins begin to brown. The resulting baked apples combine crisp tartness with the spices and sugars for a healthy dessert or afternoon snack.
With thin skin and lots of juice, the Gravenstein apple is a natural choice for making hard or soft cider. The flavor is crisp and dry with a touch of sweetness, sometimes said to hold the flavor of a white wine. The Gravenstein apple also is particularly good for making juice, applesauce and flavorful vinegars.
The Gravenstein apple grows only in select areas where the summers and winters are cool and damp, further limiting its geographical spread. It is grown in the Sonoma County region of California, and it was first introduced to the area in the mid 1800s from Nova Scotia. The root system of the Gravenstein apple is unique in its preference for the thick fog that often lies on the ground in the green valleys of Sonoma County’s costal regions, keeping the roots damp and cool. The Gravenstein apple seen a decline, however, as orchard land has been turned into vineyards that are more profitable.