With the end of October drawing near, it can only mean one thing: Halloween. If you have kids (and even if you haven’t), it’s time to get a pumpkin and spend an afternoon hollowing it out and carving a scary face into it. The kitchen worktop or dining table is probably the most practical place to do this.
Did you know that carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-Lanterns is actually an Irish tradition that’s several hundred years old? Originally, large potatoes or turnips would have been used, but the American pumpkin made a much better canvas.
Here’s how it goes:
1 – Choose the best pumpkin
The shops and markets are full of pumpkins at this time of year. Whether you prefer several smaller ones or one ginormous pumpkin, make sure you pick a fresh one. Ideally, you want an evenly rounded pumpkin that can stand up easily, with a sturdy stem to take the lid off.
2 – Get the right tools
A long, serrated knife and a large spoon are your basic tools, but pumpkin carving tool sets are also widely available to buy. Use the serrated edge like a saw to make your carving easier to control. The spoon is essential for scooping out the middle.
3 – Cut off the top
Choose the best width for your ‘lid’ and carefully cut around your pumpkin, but at an angle. That way, the lid will fit safely and stay securely in place. The danger with cutting straight down, on the other hand, is that the lid may fall into the lanterns.
4 – Scoop out the middle
Once the pumpkin is cut open, you can get your hand inside and start removing the seeds and flesh. Use a large spoon (or an ice cream scoop) to help you get rid of as much as possible. Yes, it’s a messy, sticky job but someone’s got to do it!
5 – Draw your design
Using a market pen or ballpoint pen, draw on your ‘scary face’ design on one side of the pumpkin. You need at least a mouth and 2 eyes but feel free to give your imagination free rein. You can also use ready made templates printed off from the internet – simply tape in place.
6 – Carve your design
Finally, it’s time to get carving! Very carefully follow the drawn lines with your knife. Use a carving tool for any intricate details and remember to be slow and careful, cutting straight into the pumpkin (not at an angle) for a nice clean finish.
7 – Light it up
When you’ve finished your masterpiece, place a tealight inside the cavity, pop the lid on and step back to admire your handiwork. If you find that the candle keeps going out, make a hole in the lid to create a chimney.