Well the first of the Gravenstein apples were ready to harvest the day after our first Brew North club meeting. Jesse, my Dad, and I made our way to one of our favorite trees with a bucket and high expectations.
This year the apples were abundant and healthy.
The Gravenstein is an heirloom varietal that put our little town on the map in the early 20th century. Growing up on an apple orchard I can tell you that there are apples...and then there are APPLES! Grav's are truly magnificent apples! You will not see them on the shelves of big-time chain supermarkets however. This old variety has a season as short as its shelf life. These little gems must be eaten fresh, pressed into juice, fermented into hard cider, turned into pies, or all of the above.
Step 1) Climb tree
Step 2) shake the tree so the ripe apples fall
Step 3) wash the apples, and go bobbing if you please
Step 4) press the juice
We pressed for a few hours enjoying our harvest.
Then it was time for another project
Jesse is an acupuncturist with a background as an herbalist. He recently founded his new business 5 by 5 Tonics based on this interest in herbal tinctures. As a result of raving responses from a growing community that values the old ways (in this case, how drinks used to be made without all the food coloring, mass produced artificial flavoring, and other junk) his concoctions such as aromatic bitters, citrus bitters, and tonic syrup have hardly been able to stay on the shelves. And so, one average day Jesse was hit by a lightning bolt of pure genius! Local, heirloom, organic, Gravenstein apple bitters!
This will be a limited release product and the sole focus of it is to highlight this historical and unique California crop in a creative and tasty way. Check Jesse's work out at http://fivebyfivetonics.com/bitters/
In order to pull this off, he needed apple skins immediately off of the fruit, before they had a chance to oxidize (turn brown). Luckily, an old country contraption we have relied on for year, came in handy. Our apple peeler/corer/slicer made short work of the apples and left Jesse with an abundance of skins to infuse into pure alcohol to form the base of this craft bitters.
It also left us with a whole lot of prepared apples for pie filling...
Which my Mom mixed up with cinnamon and sugar to produce a family specialty!
The apple skins were already infusing their delectable flavors and Jesse's project was a huge success! We Brew North (ers) pitched some yeast in another car boy and had 5 gallons of heirloom hard apple cider fermenting by the evening.
Keep the old ways alive!