BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - With plenty of moisture and mild temperatures, a bumper crop of fall produce is available. A University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist suggests ways to make the most of this abundance.

Making applesauce or apple butter is a favorite way to preserve Missouri apples. "To get applesauce with the best flavor, use a tart cooking apple grown in Missouri: Jonathan, Gala, Rome, Fuji or Jonagold," said Glenda Kinder. Remove seeds, cut the fruit into chunks and cook until tender. Press through a sieve to remove the skins and create pureed sauce. Flavor with sugar and spices to your liking. Homemade applesauce can be safely water-bath canned or frozen. Apple slices can also be canned.

"You might prefer to make apple pies ahead for holiday enjoyment," Kinder said. "Make and assemble the crust and filling as you normally would. Use a disposable pie pan unless you have an abundance of pie plates and won't miss them in the meantime." Wrap the pies with freezer-weight aluminum foil or freezer paper.

"Think how handy it will be to take a pie out of the freezer, unwrap, cut air slots on top and pop in the oven," Kinder said. "You'll save lots of time during the busy holiday season and your guests will never know you prepared the apple pie weeks ago."

Pumpkins are great for more than jack-o'-lanterns, she said. Wash pumpkins, then peel and cut into manageable pieces. Boil, steam or bake until done. Package cooked pieces or mashed pumpkin in freezer bags. One-inch chunks of pumpkin can be preserved with a pressure canner. A word of caution: do not mash or puree pumpkin before canning; the texture is too dense to safely can at home.

As a bonus treat, pumpkin seeds can be a nutritious snack. Dry the seeds and then roast. To dry, carefully wash the seeds to remove the clinging, fibrous tissue. Dry in a dehydrator at 115-120 degrees for one to two hours or in an oven on warm for three to four hours. Stir the seeds frequently to avoid scorching. Toss the dried pumpkin seeds with oil and/or salt and roast in a preheated oven at 250 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

To learn more, see the MU Extension guide "How to Can Fresh Fruit" (GH1455) or visit the Food Preservation website.