The Gravenstein Apples Are Here

Gravenstein apples on the tree at Redwood Hill Farm

As I was walking down our farm’s “Apple Blossom Lane” to the goat barns recently, I noticed the telltale signs that our Gravenstein apple trees have fruit that is becoming ripe. For me this means it’s time to bake an apple pie!

Sebastopol’s Celebrated History With The Gravenstein Apple

Sebastopol is well known for Gravenstein apple trees. In 1820 the first west coast Gravenstein apple orchard was planted by Russian fur traders at their outpost in Fort Ross, according to a history page at the website of the last apple processing plant in Sebastopol, Manzana. Those first trees did well in the cool coastal weather. Soon orchards began cropping up in towns nearby with a large concentration of orchards planted and thriving in Sebastopol. Gravenstein apples gained worldwide recognition for their superior tart flavor and as they are a crisp and juicy apple. The Gravensteins are one of the first apple varieties to ripen in late July and early August. They do not hold their crisp texture in cold storage so must be eaten fresh, or used for juice, sauce, or baking to enjoy their superior flavor which is enhanced in the cooking process.

Situated in western Sonoma County which has beautiful and well-draining “Goldridge” soil, our farm is abundant with many varieties of fruit trees as well as hops and an olive grove. We utilize the composted manure from our goat barns to fertilize the orchards and gardens. During the winter months, our seasonal rains cause the compost to break down further to provide nutrients that make their way into the soil.

Redwood Hill Farm Has Cultivated Gravensteins For Over 50 Years

And though we have a variety of trees in our orchards, the apple trees have a special place in our hearts. You see, our original farm located just a few miles from here was situated in an old Gravenstein apple orchard. As children, we would collect the “drops” (apples that had fallen from the trees as Gravensteins are self-thinning) for fresh eating. When the trees were ready to pick we all took our turn, filling up bags and boxes of the light green colored, red-striped fruit.

It was then time to sit at our large dining table and help Mom make applesauce and pies. We chopped, peeled, and sliced for what seemed like an eternity to fill large pots of apples. On those canning days I remember Mom putting up quarts and quarts of applesauce! In addition, she froze apple pies to hold for the months when we would crave that taste of summer in a warm slice of apple pie.

The Perfect Baking Apple

In celebration of the Gravensteins ripening, here are two of my favorite apple recipes. Tried and true, these recipes will be perfectly made with Gravensteins. Find Gravenstein apples at many local Sonoma County markets, farmer’s markets, Andy’s Produce, and at Hale’s Apple Farm in Sebastopol on Gravenstein Hwy 116, north of town. But don’t wait, they won’t be here for long! If you cannot get Gravensteins, substitute with a tart baking apple such as Granny Smith or Jonathans.

For all things Gravenstein, attend the Gravenstein Apple Fair, “the sweetest fair in Sonoma County” on Saturday and Sunday, August 13 & 14, 2022 at Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol. Put on as a fundraiser for Sonoma County Farm Trails, go to for more information, activities, and tickets.

Hurry Up Apple Pie

This is an easy, delicious recipe courtesy of my mother’s cousin Diane Knetchli.

  1. Fill pie pan 2/3 full of peeled, sliced apples. Sprinkle with 1 TBSP of brown sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  2. In a small bowl combine ¾ cup of melted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 egg, ¼ to ½ cup of chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) and a pinch of salt. Pour over the apples.
  3. Bake at 350º for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Slice in wedges and serve.

Crunchy Apple Crisp

This is a vintage recipe that still holds up! It was first published in Better Homes and Gardens, in 1978.

4 cups sliced peeled Gravenstein apples
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup quick cooking rolled oats
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ cup unsalted butter

  1.  Mound apples in an 8-inch round baking dish; sprinkle with orange juice.
  2.  Mix oats, flour, sugars, peel, and spices. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over apples.
  3.  Bake in 375º oven 45 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite topping. (I love vanilla ice cream!) Makes 6 servings.

Raise a Glass, Hop Harvest Has Begun

Hop bines reaching skyward

The Dog Days Of Summer Have Reached Capracopia~Redwood Hill Farm.

In August as the heat index rises, our goats lazily lounge in shade under trees. The fruit of the olive begins to swell, and the flower field reaches its zenith. All while the hop bines tower into the blue sky on their trellis. Swaying happily in the warm west winds, their yellowing cones release aromatics that wet hops craft beer enthusiasts relish in their hazy dreams.

The First Harvest Of The Season Is In

Closeup of mature Cascade hop cones

Our 2nd year Cascade varietal was the first hops of 2020 to be ready. We cut down the hop bines at 8:30 in the morning and loaded into the trailer staged in the hopyard. By 9 AM, the twenty feet bines made their way over to the Wolf harvesting machine waiting to pluck the fragrant cones from the plants. Within half an hour, we had the hops harvested and ready to go into Crooked Goat Brewing, right here in our hometown of Sebastopol. The hops made their way from a goat farm with a hopyard, to a brewery with a goat mascot for their 4th consecutive year. Take a look into the process of our hop harvest with this VIDEO.

Fresh vs Dry, Taste The Difference

Fresh hops in the tank during the brewing process.

Like the hops for Crooked Goat, we sell hops fresh or “wet”. That means the day they are harvested, they are added into the beer. This gives the brewers a rare, seasonal chance to use fresh, local hops. Usually, brewers use dried hops from the Pacific Northwest—where most of the hops grow in the United States. The ability to use wet hops can be compared to a chef using a fresh herb such as basil if they are accustomed to only using dried basil. You can taste the freshness in wet hop beers.

We grow hops at Capracopia organically with no sprays or chemical fertilizers given. We feed the soil with our farm-made compost which in turn feeds the hops with all the nutrients and minerals they need to produce lupulin rich, beautiful hop cones.

Sonoma County’s Rich History With Hop Production

Early in the 20th century, Sonoma County was a mecca for hop production in California, producing half the state’s crop. Several factors led to Hopyards exiting Sonoma County’s agricultural scene and being replaced with apple orchards and vineyards. Thanks to a burgeoning craft beer scene in Sonoma County, hopyards are popping back up in Sonoma County on a boutique scale. At Capracopia, we are proud to supply 8-9 of these craft breweries with the finest possible local hops picked at their peak.

It’s Time For Wet Hop Beers At Your Local Brewpub

Glass of fresh hop beer alongside a hop cone.

In September, when you hop down to your favorite brewery, order a wet hop beer. Not only will you be supporting a local small business in the brewery, but you will also be supporting a local small farm. Wet hop beers are a seasonal delight, usually only seen on tap in September and October, so enjoy them while you can! If you happen to be in Sonoma County, you can taste the terroir of our beautiful land in each delicious sip. Cheers!