Fall is upon us. That means cooler weather and patches covered with pumpkins perfect for making jack-o’-lanterns. This big orange gourd is easily recognizable and is, in fact, the greatest of all pumpkin for carving.
If you don’t plan to carve your pumpkin right away, store it in a cool area and make sure to select one that has a stem—because stems help preserve freshness before carving.
Good carving starts with the right pumpkin.
The very best pumpkins are the ones that visually appeal to you. If the pumpkin has flats spots from resting against the ground, use those rough areas to enhance its uniqueness. Knobby protrusions growing on pumpkins can be used as spooky design elements. And don’t worry if you can’t find a completely round pumpkin with a bright orange glow. Character imperfections are often perfection. But it is advisable to choose a pumpkin with a flat bottom so it doesn’t roll over.
To begin, cut through the thick top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle until you have made a circle—then pull of the top of the pumpkin. You can also cut the bottom out or slice out the back. It all depends on how you want it to shine when the candle goes in.
Now, it’s time to get messy. Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp using a wide, somewhat flat spoon shaped instrument. Any retail store will have these in the aisles of their Halloween displays. If you like tasty treats, be sure to roast up the seeds or make other delicious pumpkin recipes.
To help prevent the pumpkin from rotting and shriveling up, soak it a mixture of bleach and water—1 tablespoon of bleach for every gallon of water. You should also rub vegetable oil on both the inside and outside of the pumpkin. This coating will help slow the aging process of your carved creation.
Next, you have to decide how you want the face of your pumpkin to look. The typical jack-o’-lantern has diamond-shaped eyes, a half-moon nose and a great big smile with lots of gaps between its teeth. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a fun-filled pumpkin carving experience should be able to cut out this design from memory. Want something more elaborate? There are numerous templates available online and in stores that will allow you etch an outline and cut designs that will make everyone in the neighborhood orange with envy.
For best results, use a long, serrated knife. Cut just outside of your marker lines to ensure no black marks on your pumpkin. Use a slow, sawing motion to get the best cut possible. This is a great family activity. Just make sure the kids are always supervised when sharp utensils are present.
Now, you’re ready to show off your pumpkin’s design. If it is a bit wobbly, even off the bottom and place a fire-resistant plate. If you plan to light it, use a small votive candle and place inside at the bottom of the pumpkin. For an extra-special effect, sprinkle nutmeg or cinnamon on the sides of the pumpkin for a nice fall aroma. Of, course, never leave a burning candle unattended and extinguish all flames at the end of the night. If you want plan to use your pumpkin on more than one night, wrap it in a large plastic bag and refrigerate it.