Introduction: How to Make Shrunken Apple Heads

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If you're sick of carving pumpkins, why not try making some shrunken apple heads? This is a craft that isn't seen quite as often these days, but it's so much fun to do and I think the results look awesome. Shrunken apple heads are very forgiving just because they shrink so much. I'm fairly terrible at any sort of sculpting but I was very pleased with how my shrunken apple heads turned out. :D

Step 1: What You'll Need:

  • apples
  • a paring knife or two
  • lemons
  • salt
  • skewers, an oven or a dehydrator for drying
  • pens/pencil for drawing on the apples

I recommend granny smith apples because they have really firm flesh, which makes it easier to carve them and get good results. Golden and red delicious apples have a more mealy and soft flesh, so sometimes it can be tricky to get sharp features from them. :)

Step 2: Carving the Apples, Take One

This is honestly a little hard to explain and I'm sure everyone will figure it out a different way. I recommend just going for it! Just buy more apples than you think you'll need.

At first I tried carving without peeling. I dunno. I don't think it really helped.

I butchered this poor apple. Sorry, apple.

Step 3: Carving the Apples, Take Two

The more I carved the better I got!

I found that it's best to peel them first and then dig in to carving. You can use the tip of a pen or pencil to make indentions in the apples to help guide you.

I chose to cut into the apple for my details, but I've seen folks do the opposite - leaving the details raised and cutting away the rest. This just made more sense to me.

Try to make all the features super exaggerated so when they shrivel up they'll still be visible. :D

You can leave a bit of the skin on if you like, too. I left some at the very tops of my apples.

Step 4: Treat the Apples With Salt and Lemon

Take a lemon half and dip it in salt. Rub it all over the apple - squeezing as you go. Pay special attention to any indentations in the apple like the eyes and mouth. This will help keep the apples from going dark brown.

I've seen other suggest soaking the apples in a mix of water and lemon juice, but I didn't see any major difference between that and what I'm doing, so I'm gonna keep doing it the lazy way. :D

After you've rubbed them with salt and lemon, use paper towels to dry them very well.

Step 5: Drying Your Apple Heads

How you dry your apples depends entirely on the climate you're in. Sometimes I forgot that my office is on a pier, so I thought I would just let them hang out and dry. I staked them on skewers and let them sit and hoped it would work out. NOPE. They sat Thursday - Monday and dried out a bit, but not nearly enough. :)

And so I ended up setting them in the oven at work at 150 F for a few hours, and then when I got home I put them in my dehydrator.

So here are the three ways to do it:

  1. On skewers in a warm, dry climate. This will take several days.
  2. In an oven on the lowest heat. [For me this was 175 F. It you have an electric oven, crack the door. Don't do that if you've got a gas oven, you'll just gas yourself. ;)] I set mine up a rack covered in parchment paper. You don't want to sit them right onto a rack or pan for two reasons: they'll get markings from the rack if let sit too long, and having them sit right on metal can cause the sugars in the apple to brown. This route should be the fastest, but you need to keep an eye on them so they don't get cooked.
  3. In a food dehydrator. I have a very old one similar to this that I took home from the old Instructables office, and it was enough to get the job done. This can take forever at a low heat but yields really nice results!

Or, you know, a combination of them works too :D

Your shrunken heads are done when they've reduced significantly in size and are completely dry to the touch, even in the indentations.

Step 6: What to Do If You Find Mold

If you choose to go the old fashioned route and let them air dry, you might find that you end up with mold inside the eyes and mouth. This just means that it's too humid where you are. If this happens, it's easy to correct!

Take a cotton swab and wipe off all the mold and excess goop that is sure to be happening. You can apply more lemon juice if you like, too!

After you've cleaned them up, pop them in an oven or a dehydrator to finish them off.

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