Jack o’lanterns 101
So you got yourself a pumpkin, and ready to embrace the season’s cutest and most favoured activity: pumpkin carving..but hold on, how does one actually go about doing it all? (In SA this is mostly a bit new to the majority) You’ve heard of pumpkin carving kits, and thinking, where on earth am I still going to track that down, and in any case do they even work? They look so dinky, like they won’t even last 5 seconds into it…
Well, fear not my little pumpkineers, I got your back.
Much like covering your cake with fondant icing for the first time ever, the suprising nerves around getting your first carving right is unnecessary – it’s way easier than you think!
As for tools? You don’t need anything more special than a few kitchen items you already have, and a pen(for free hand) or template.
• Carving knife
• Paring knife
• Bowl for pumpkin guts
• Bucket of special homemade preserve liquid (see here)
• Ice cream scoop
1. Whilst this step is optional, it is recommended to let your works of art at least last till after Halloween. Soak your pumpkin in preserve and dry off as per instructions. (This lets it last for MONTHS, or instead simply use the preserve AFTER to keep it lasting for a about 2-4 weeks)
2. Using a saucer or circular shape that is of the appropriate size, mark the lid of your jack-o-lantern with a pen.
3. Then using your carving knife, at an angle gently and slowly start piercing the pumpking along the marked line. You want to keep the knife at an angle , as you want this top of pumpkin to be able to fit like a lid, and not fall off. So the angle creates a lip as such which keeps the lid from falling right through.
4. Clear out the pumpkin guts – using an ice scream scoop is by far the best tool for this job.
Be sure you’ve cleared most of the pumpkin guts, as any strings hanging around pose as a fire hazard – if you’re going to use candles
5. Once your guts are removed, now is also the best time to scoop out any pumpkin you wish to use for that yummy pumpkin pie recipe or other seasonal goodies. (For a super easy recipe for delicious pumpkin pie, see here.)
7. Rotate the pumpkin until you find the highest area or most surface area onto which you can draw your jack o lantern face or design.
8. If you’re winging this pattern and using free hand, use a reddish pen to trace your face onto the pumpkin.(that way any mistakes are less visible than a black pen.)
If you’re using a template, paste/secure the template onto pumpkin now and make sure it’s dry and won’t move while you’re working on it.
9. I found that gently inserting and removing knife along the lines drawn or of template first, reaps far better results that just cutting in one go – mistakes are far more probable that way. So once most of the leg work is done, you can then easily cut and smooth out the desgin.
10. Use the paring knife for the smaller and trickier corners.
11. Once your carving is complete and you’re happy, soak your pumpkin once more in the preserving liquid as per instructions (see here) and let it dry.
And BOOM – you just carved yourself a pumpkin. See told ya, it’ll be easy peazy lemon squeezy!
Remember, if you’re doing this with small kids, you’re going to be handling the carving, and let them stand well away from you while you’re busy with those sharp knives – slip ups happen far too easily. Let them handle the pumpkin guts scooping, and depending on their artist levels, let them draw the outlines or at least paste down the template.
Don’t forget to check out the pumpkin preservation techniques that’ll make sure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste before Halloween even hits – pumpkins can go bad real quick! Carved pumpkins can lose their mojo and go all mif in as little as three days. So don’t make the rookie mistakes like me, and rather go check it out over here.(link to be updated soon)
Happy carving! X