Apples are the second-most popular fruit in America, after bananas, but fruit, alas, is not as popular as candy. I’m not suggesting people give out apples for Halloween, but if you have a bunch of apples, perhaps some with blemishes, you can carve them into apple jack-o’-lanterns.
My family carved a bunch of apples one night. The next day, when my son was at school, I took a nibble off the corner of one of his, and my eyes got as big as his ghoul’s. We had rubbed them with lime juice to keep the apple jack-o-lanterns from browning, and that, it turns out, adds extra zing that is shockingly delicious.
A dehydrator with shelving you can space widely enough to accommodate an entire apple is the device of choice with which to make these sweet and sassy skulls. If this project becomes the impetus to buy a dehydrator, you won’t be sorry. Also extremely helpful: a tomato corer or similar cutting spoon.
— Ari LeVaux
Apples, the bigger the better
Lime or lemon juice
Peel the apple, going around its “equator,” while leaving a bit of peel around the stem end and its opposite “pole.” When peeled, look at the apple and decide where the face should be. Then use the coring spoon to scoop out the core from the opposite side, leaving a big hole in the back of the head. Scooping the insides allows the apple jack-o’-lanterns to dry more quickly.
Next, carve the mouth, then the eyes and nose. (I found that if I started with the eyes, I didn’t leave enough room for the mouth. That is the extent of any artistic advice that I should be giving, other than to make sure the nose is smaller than the eyes.)
Rub the carved apple with lemon or lime juice and place in the center of a dehydrator, with the temperature at 135, for about 12 hours. If using an oven, set it on the lowest setting, with convection on if you’ve got it, and keep a watchful eye on them apples for about 2 to 6 hours, depending on the situation.
Whatever equipment you employ, you should test your process all the way through with just an apple or two before carving your personal army of sweet ghouls. You are not only testing your gear but your technique and process. Learn how it dries, with or without pieces of peel. If a big scary mouth clenches into a grimace, pry it open into more of a primordial scream. Little touches like that can make all the difference on Halloween.