Time is ripe to put pumpkins, apples to good use

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By Joan Martin

Pumpkins and apples are at the Anderson County Farmer’s Market now. You can also purchase them directly from several local farms.
A good carving pumpkin doesn’t usually make a good eating pumpkin. The carving pumpkins are tough and a little bland. Pie or sweet pumpkins are best for cooking and baking, as they have a more tender rind and are less fibrous.
Pumpkin fits in your eating plan because it is fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, and a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of vitamin A. One serving of pumpkin (3/4 cup) contains only 25 calories and 1 gram each of sugar and protein. One pound of raw, unpeeled pumpkin will yield one cup of ready to use pumpkin puree.
When selecting a pumpkin, look for one with 1 to 2 inches of stem. If the stem is cut too short, the pumpkin will decay quickly.
Avoid pumpkins with blemishes and soft spots. Pumpkins should be heavy, but shape is unimportant if you are cooking them.
Pumpkins can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two months. A storage shed, basement or garage floor may be a good storage area. Cooked pumpkin can be canned or frozen for future use.
Canned pumpkin must be chunked, not pureed for canning. Don’t try to can pureed pumpkin at home because it may be a source of botulism. Pureed pumpkin will not reach an internal temperature of 240 degrees in a home pressure canner. Call the Extension Office for directions on canning pumpkin. You may not want to do it because pints are processed for 55 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.
It’s much easier to freeze pumpkin instead of canning it. Mix one part sugar to 6 parts of pumpkin puree, put in freezer containers, leave 1/2 inch of headspace, and then freeze.
To prepare pumpkin, rinse to remove dirt and pat dry. Cut around the stem about two inches from the stem.
Remove top and use a large metal spoon to scoop out the fiber and seeds. Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape the flesh to remove any remaining fiber. You can bake, boil or microwave pumpkin.
Baking is the easiest in my opinion because you don’t have to cut the raw pumpkin.
To bake pumpkin, place the two halves, cut side down, in an ovenproof dish or lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 2 hours or until tender. Cook, then cool and scrape out the flesh and discard the rind.

Pumpkin Apple Muffin
Makes 18 muffins
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 /14 cups honey (see substitute below)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups Granny Smith apples, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt and spices.
In a small bowl, combine honey, eggs, pumpkin and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples.
Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups, 2/3 full.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until muffins test done with a toothpick.
Cool for10 minutes before removing from the pan.
Note: Can substitute two cups granulated sugar (white sugar) for honey, decrease baking soda by 1/4 teaspoon for a total of 1 teaspoon baking soda and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Nutritional analysis:200 calories, 7 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 3 g protein

Joan Martin is a family and consumer sciences agent in the Anderson County Extension office.