Carve a Pumpkin
Edited by Kate Supino, Melissa Rae, Eng, VC
How to Carve a Pumpkin
Pumpkin carving is a family pastime that dates back for centuries. Pumpkins and squash come into season in the autumn, and they naturally lend themselves to the craft of carving. Once a pumpkin is carved, it gets a new name. A pumpkin is just a pumpkin until someone carves a design into it. Then it becomes a jack-o-lantern, and assumes a whole new aura of meaning.
Jack-o-lanterns are popular as a Halloween decoration. The eerie light that is emitted from the insides of a lit jack-o-lantern is functional, festive and fun. Most frequently, jack-o-lanterns are set outside the front doors of houses during Halloween season. When children make the rounds to go trick-or-treating, the presence of a lit jack-o-lantern signifies that candy treats are not far away.
Jack-o-lantern designs vary from the innocent to the frightening. They can be simple or intricate. In fact, towns often hold contests for the best jack-o-lantern carving design. There are also regional contests that are held for the fastest pumpkin carving. Since pumpkin carving is typically enjoyed as a family activity, rushing through the carving for the purposes of setting a speed record is best left to the professionals.
Before you choose your pumpkin for carving, it helps to know the different varieties of pumpkins available. The pumpkin comes from the squash family, and there are dozens of sizes, shapes, colors and varieties within that family. Some varieties have come to be commonly used for eating, others for purely decorative purposes, and others for carving into jack-o-lanterns. Technically, you can carve any kind of squash into a jack-o-lantern, but there are common types of pumpkins that almost everyone uses.
Sugar pumpkins, which are also known as "pie pumpkins," are usually utilized by cooks to make homemade pumpkin pie. They are about a quarter the size of jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and their taste is better for pie making. They measure roughly six to eight inches in diameter. One sugar pumpkin yields enough pumpkin pulp to make one pie. You could make a jack-o-lantern from a sugar pie, but due to their small size, it could get very tricky when it comes to carving out the design on the small surface area.
Pumpkins that are ideal for making jack-o-lanterns are much larger than sugar pumpkins. They might weigh anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds or more. The pulp from these larger pumpkins isn't ideal for pie making, but the seeds are fine and tasty for toasting. The larger pumpkins generate a lot of seeds; much more than a sugar pumpkin.
Locating Your Pumpkin
These days, almost all supermarkets carry large pumpkins that are ideal for making jack-o-lanterns. Busy parents can pop a pumpkin into their shopping cart along with the rest of the groceries and call it a day. For added family enjoyment, however, seek out a local farm or festival in the fall. These places will usually have a pumpkin patch where youngsters can hand select a pumpkin to bring home. If you can't find a farm, or you live in a more urban area, look to your local farmer's market for a selection of pumpkins. If all else fails, seek out church fairs or town fundraisers in the fall time. These event organizers will often have a batch of pumpkins delivered and displayed on the lawn, so local kids can enjoy a farm-like atmosphere in which to go pumpkin picking. The process of finding and choosing the pumpkin can mark the beginning of fall for your family, and offers a wholesome, shared bonding experience.
Selecting Your Pumpkin
First of all, whichever pumpkin your young child selects is the perfect pumpkin. No matter what size it is, if you can afford it, smile, load it into your family car and bring it on home. Your child has few decisions they can make on their own. Let them make this one. You can always choose a second pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern. The ideal pumpkin for carving will have a nice long stem on top, a flattish-bottom, and one side that is a little flatter than the others. The stem will make the lid attractive, the flat bottom will keep it stabilized with the candle inside, and the flat side will make it easier to carve.
Now that you have your pumpkin home, next you have to choose on which side you will position your image. If you can, find the side that is the most flat. Cutting on a convex surface is dangerous, and it's easy to slip with your cutting instrument. The flatter the surface is where you are carving your jack-o-lantern design, the safer the whole process will be.
Preparing the Work Surface
Carving a pumpkin is a messy activity. Don't do this on top of anything you don't want to get dirty, such as a nice tablecloth. You also don't want to gunk up your pumpkin and tools with newsprint. The insides of the pumpkin are moist, so when they come into contact with a newspaper, the print would come off onto your pumpkin. The best places to carve your pumpkins are, outside on a picnic table, inside on an old kitchen table, or on a kitchen table covered with a vinyl tablecloth.
- 2Cut Away the Lid.
- 4Put the seeds in a separate bowl.
- 5Clean up the Lid.
- 6Attach Your Template.
- 7Cut Out the Sections.
- 10A small pillar candle works best for lighting the inside of the jack-o-lantern. To help ensure that it stays upright, use the scraper to flatten out the bottom of the jack-o-lantern on the inside. Decide where you're going to place the jack-o-lantern. Insert your candle and light it with a long butane lighter. As Halloween season progresses, you'll need to replace the candle.Insert the Candle.
- 11Enjoy Your Handiwork!
If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.
Categories : Holidays & Traditions
Recent edits by: Eng, Melissa Rae, Kate Supino