One of Wellness Warrior’s old friends, Antonia Allegra, lives in the Napa Valley and has a keen sense of the seasons. That and her fame as the founder of the Symposium for Professional Food Writers in 1989—along with a long career as cooking teacher, author, and “coach” to hundreds of other cookbook authors—leads her to muse now and then on new ways to introduce cooks to something as simple as making applesauce.
Her latest is a free-verse approach to recipe writing, and she shared it with us during this, the fall apple season.
In her neck of the woods (and Europe as well, for the variety originated in Denmark and remains very popular today), the Gravenstein is revered for its clean, robust flavor as well as its beauty: the peel is mottled in red and green, quite attractive really. It simply looks artisanal, and because of its seasonality (it doesn’t keep well for months as some varieties do) it always arrives in the marketsas “something special.”
Oh, to have a tree of one’s own.
Ms. Allegra does, and it is a worthy destination in her garden around the end of August. If you can’t find Gravensteins try Jonathans or McIntoshes. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a nice chart on various apples and their best uses in pie, applesauce, or ciders.
If you can wait this long, the 44th Gravenstein Apple Fair will be held August 12 & 13 in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California. A great excuse for a wine country vacation! There’s even a Gravenstein Elementary School in Sonoma County, which NPR author Nicole Spiridakis remembers well. Her piece in “Kitchen Window” calls them “crisp and tart and with a touch of honey.” For some interesting history of this revered fruit, see “Gravenstein, The Apple That Travels” by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society.
Here’s Ms. Allegra’s “recipe”—both a fine moment on a late-summer/early Fall day, and an easy way to “perfume the kitchen.”
The Gravensteins came in plump
And brilliant as a 40s red truck this year.
They grasped their branches until just-so,
Then hurled themselves to earth,
Resting there quietly in the St. John’s Wort.
The apples waited patiently.
Nestled there, they sat a week,
As household life bustled along.
Then, after the waiting,
One foggy morning came the thought:
Yes! That spice walnut cake wants to be
Covered with homemade applesauce
And maybe a touch of vanilla ice cream.
I ambled down the little hill, basket in hand,
To collect the fruit.
No need to pick them. They lay there,
Just as they had leaped from branches
Into our lives and, now, onto our table.
I’d already baked the cake,
So I cut Mondrian slices off the centers of each apple,
Keeping skins and all,
Saving the cores for the horses.
Big chunks slid into a large pot
With a bottle of sparkling cider to cover.
Simmered long enough to soften and perfume the kitchen.
Then, the decision:
To serve with the softened skins
—Antonia Allegra, copyright 2016
PHOTO: Outdoor PDK via Creative Commons Flickr
- Symposium for Professional Food Writers, Antonia Allegra
- The 44th Gravenstein Apple Fair will be held on August 12th and 13th, 2017
- Gravenstein, The Apple That Travels via Western Sonoma County Historical Society
- Gravenstein Apples: The End Of Summer In A Fruit via NPR
- Best Apples for Baking: Apple Pie, Applesauce, Cider via The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Culinary and writing coach, author and mentor Antonia (Toni) Allegra is dedicated to working with food and wine professionals. As a coach for culinary starters and stars, she has influenced the creation of hundreds of books, columns, blogs and other media. An ardent advocate for writers, she founded the Symposium for Professional Food Writers in 1989 and the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley in 2004. Among her other initiatives, she launched and directed the Beringer Vineyards School for American Chefs, launched La Cocina Que Canta Cooking School at Rancho la Puerta in Tecate, Baja California and co-founded the Culinary Coaches and Consultants Collaborative. Toni authored Napa Valley: The Ultimate Winery Guide, printed to a fourth edition, and the Napa Valley Tour Guide and the Wine Country Deck. She also was founding editor of the award-winning publications Napa Valley Tables, Appellation and VINE Napa Valley magazines, and served as food editor of the San Diego Tribune (1982-88). A native San Franciscan of a 6-generation family, Toni lives in a treehouse in Napa Valley.