Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall foods: Pumpkins and Apples

Dried Apple Rings
This post is to accompany my talk on BTO for Tuesday, October 19th, 2010.
Oh how I love the fall. Living in the Pacific Northwest where apples are dripping from the trees makes life even sweeter here. When I was a newbie here about 4 years ago, I couldn't believe my eyes. It seemed everywhere I looked there were apple trees with literally hundreds of apples dripping off them! It was like a happy mirage. Apples are indeed abundant here. I'm lucky enough to acquire apples every year from people who can't keep up with them all and are more than happy to share. Which means this time of year I'm busy making things like pies, tarts,
applesauce, apple butter, dried apple chips, etc. So below I will be sharing some of my favorite ways to use apples.
Pumpkins are one of my favorite things! I love to use them to decorate my porch as a sign that fall is here, and Halloween near. I love the taste of them and I love how versatile they are. I grow them, and am now harvesting them so they are on my mind. So here are some awesome pumpkin recipes too!
Apple Tart
Apple Tart
This is absolutely one of my favorite things to do with apples. It is an amazing dessert that is loved by all. This is the thing I make if I need a dessert quick. I usually have all of the ingredients and I can whip it up in 20 minutes, throw it in the oven, and in an hour have something great. The crust is buttery and tender.
This recipe comes from my mother. It is something my sister makes, and is loved by her family as well. I use Granny Smith apples, but any cooking apple will work well.
3 large apples
1/2 cup (one stick) soft butter
1/4 cup unsifted powdered sugar
1 & 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TBS melted butter
For pastry, cream butter with powdered sugar until fluffy.(I use a hand mixer for this.) Then mix in 1 cup of the flour (still using hand mixer) to make a soft dough. When the dough comes together mix dough with hands until you can shape it into a ball. Using fingertips, press dough into a tart pan, or flat on a foil or parchment paper lined cookie sheet, to make a free form tart.
(I usually make it free form.)
Core and slice peeled apples, (you can also use unpeeled apples) and arrange overlapping on top of dough. In a bowl stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and remaining 1/4 cup flour and cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples. Drizzle melted butter over all. Bake in 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Dried Apple Rings
Did you know that you don't need a dehydrator to dry stuff? You can do it on the lowest heat in your oven. For me that's 170 degrees Fahrenheit. I've been drying apples for years with my abundance. The wonderful thing about these is that they last a very long time. I had some in my pantry for 2 years, I kid you not, and they were perfectly good. I do use sugar and dry them well. It's the moisture that would make them mold so if you plan to keep them for long unrefrigerated, I would also make sure they are quite dry.
Core and slice some apples as thin as you can. I use a V slicer or a mandoline similar to this one for this task. It makes it super easy to get the slices as thin as I want them. If you are using a knife, just slice them as thin as you can get them.
I coat the slices with powdered sugar using a sifter and dusting it on. I use powdered sugar because it dissolves well onto the apples. I'm sure regular sugar would work also. You can also choose not to use sugar. I do because I like it, and I was using Granny Smith apples that were tart so the sweet contrast was nice. I also believe that the coating of sugar helps to prevent them from browning.
If you don't use sugar you may need to treat them with lemon juice to prevent browning. Other ways to accomplish this is using a vitamin c tablet dissolved in some water. Dunk the slices in that for a few minutes, dry them and they are ready to go. Or dunking them in a bowl of salt water also works well to prevent browning in fruits.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.
Line some cookie sheets with foil, or you can only use foil with no cookie sheet. Lightly grease the foil and place your apple slices in rows next to each other without overlapping.
Put them in the oven and bake them for anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours or so. It depends how thin you are able to slice them. After an hour of so I turn them over to cook on the other side. This can usually be done with your fingers, since the oven temperature is so low.
When they are quite dry, remove them and store them in an airtight container, after they have cooled.
Apple Leather
Here is another great thing to do with apples. Perfect for snacks. And you can do this in the oven too!
Make some applesauce. To do this just peel, core and chop up some apples. Throw them in a pot with a little water, just enough so the bottom of the pan won't scorch. On medium high heat, cook the apple, stirring often. They will get soft cook down and look like applesauce in 15-20 minutes or so. Add sugar and spices to taste if you'd like. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves all make good choices. Or you may use prepared applesauce, or really any fruit puree. Like plums, or peaches, just dice and cook the fruit in a pan, then puree in a food processor or blender.
Here is a good site with numerous fruit leather ideas.
Pour the applesauce into a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) lined with foil and greased. It should be about 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch deep. If it's deeper it will just take longer to cook. It will take 2-3 cups of applesauce to fill a typical jelly roll pan.
Cook it on the lowest setting of your oven for 8 hours or so. You can also cook it overnight. It should be dry not tacky but still pliable when done. Peel it off the foil and cut it into strips, or leave it in one piece and roll it up in plastic wrap like a fruit roll up. Store it in the refrigerator.
Make Your Own Pectin from apples
Apple Recipes from the Washington State Apple Commission

Pumpkin Seeds ready to give

Pumpkin is a great vegetable. It is sweet and mild and has so many sweet and savory applications as well as being great for you. It is extremely high in beta carotene which is an antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A in the body Only one cup of the vegetable provides 171% of the daily requirement of Vitamin A. It is full of minerals and low in calories. The seeds are great for you as well, they are high in magnesium, manganese, iron and copper, and a good source of protein. That's my kind of healthy eating!

Scooping out the cooked pumpkin

Why not just use canned pumpkin? Canned pumpkin is fine, but I find comfort in knowing I don't have to rely on canned if it's not available. Like the great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009. When Libby, the biggest producer of canned pumpkin in the U.S. makes 85% of all of it, that's a big responsibility if something goes wrong, like it did last year. Since I grow my own, I know it's organic and where it came from. Not to mention that it's not from a can, so no BPA from the lining of the can. Of course you don't have to grow your own, you can easily find them in stores this time of year.
Sorting out the pumpkin seeds

Let's start with selecting pumpkins. Pumpkins are a type of Winter squash. Most of these squashes taste about the same. A popular eating variety and the kind I grow in my garden are Sugar Pie pumpkins. They are small and tasty. If you don't see small eating pumpkins in your local store, you can use Butternut squash or Acorn squash like you would pumpkin and no one would be the wiser. I recently used only butternut squash to make a pumpkin pie, it was delicious and I would never know it wasn't pumpkin if I didn't make it myself. These other squashes also have seeds, and can be treated the same as pumpkin seeds.

Jack O Lantern pumpkins are not the kind you want for eating. They are grown for size and structural strength, and can be bland, watery, and stringy. They are edible, but really should just be used for carving. But definitely eat the seeds from them! (I've included some seed recipes below.)

Preparing Pumpkin

First let's talk about how to prepare the pumpkin or squash in a pureed form similar to the form that's in a can.

1. Cut your pumpkin (or other winter squash) in half and dig out the seeds and put aside.

2. Place the squash cut side down on a cookie sheet. (Lined with foil for easier cleanup if you'd like.)

3. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes to an hour or so. Until very tender. Prick it with a fork to test.

4. Set on counter to cool.

5. When cool, with a spoon scoop out the flesh into a bowl. You will be left with just with the thin skin remaining, discard the skin.

6. Puree the flesh of the squash in a food processor or blender. This can be done with a food mill also. It's not absolutely necessary to puree it, it's smoother and silkier in a pie if it is, but I've also made a pie by just using the pulp after scooping it. It gave the pie a little more texture. I liked it, but it is not traditional.

This puree freezes very well. Now the puree is ready to make a pie, or a silky soup, or for making pumpkin leather! (recipe below.)

Pumpkin Leather

Making pumpkin leather is a great way to get children to eat their vegetables. It tastes like pumpkin pie!
It can also be cut into jack o lantern shapes for a fun Autumn party.


2 1/2 to 3 cups pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1/2 to 1 cup sweetener (honey or maple syrup works very well) sugar or brown sugar can also be used. If using brown, sift it first to eliminate lumps.
cinnamon to taste (about 1 tsp.)
pumpkin pie spice to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
other spices to taste, like ginger, allspice, nutmeg, or cloves (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and taste as you go. The taste will be a little more concentrated once it is transformed into leather, but not by much. So make sure it tastes good now!

Pour this mixture into a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) that is lined with foil and greased pretty well. The thickness should be on the thicker side (about 1/4 inch), as when this leather dries, it has a tendency to shrink and break apart as it dries, more than a fruit leather. When it is thicker, it is less likely to do this.

Alternately, you may use part pumpkin and part applesauce. It will be less likely to break as it dries.

Cook in low oven, 170 degrees for about 8 hours or overnight. When it is done, it will be dry, not tacky, but still pliable. When cool, roll up with plastic wrap or cut into strips or shapes. Keep stored in airtight container.

Pumpkin Seeds

This is one of my favorite snacks this time of year, and this is my favorite way to prepare them!

Salty, Spicy, Sweet Pumpkin Seeds


2 cups Pumpkin seeds
olive oil
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon
cinnamon, about 1 tsp
pumpkin pie spice about 1/2 tsp
cayenne pepper just a little, about 1/8 of a tsp (optional)

Take your seeds and wash them and pick off the bits of squash. Dry them on a clean towel.

Toss them with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and some salt.

Line a cookie sheet with some foil and dump the seeds on it. Lay the seeds out in a single layer.

Cook them in a 275 degree oven for an hour and a half or so. You can raise the heat if you are in a hurry to 300, it will take 40 minutes to one hour. Stir and check them every 20 minutes or so.
They will be done when they have some color, when they've browned a bit. Eat one, it should be nice and crunchy.

You can go ahead and eat them now if you like, roasted and salted.

If you'd like them spiced, then place the seeds in a bowl.

Put a skillet on medium high heat and add the 1/4 cup sugar and another tablespoon of olive oil.

Wait for the sugar to melt. This will take a few minutes. Meanwhile, mix the spices together with the extra tablespoon of sugar.

When the sugar is melted, add the seeds and the spice mixture. Toss it all together and lay it on a cookie sheet. When cooled, you may need to break them up a bit.

By cooking them a second time in a pan with the sugar, it makes the spices, sugar and salt stick to the seeds well.

Some clever pumpkin seed variations over on

Some Pumpkin Links

How To Cure Pumpkins from The University Of Illinois

How To Prepare Pumpkin from AllRecipes

Lots of Pumpkin Recipes from Pumpkin Nook


Gina said...

Wow Melissa, what a great post. Very informative.

Elizabeth L. said...

I listened to this show, and I loved hearing about the different recipes, they sound so good. I'm def. going to try the apple tart.


Melanie said...

fyi the Apple Tart recipe comes from Sunset Magazine circa the '60's or '70's.

The Alchemist said...

Mel- (Mel is my sister) thanks for the info.