Some tall and skinny, others short and round, character waits to be carved into every stature. Randomly stopping at the most promising jack o’ lantern hopefuls, I disturb their sunning for a thorough inspection of poking, prodding and utter violation in search of hidden bruises, holes and signs of rotting. I continued to probe the field until finally, I spotted the pumpkin that I would fashion a personality and place into my window sill; it was if it had been waiting there all season, especially for me. Like the headless horseman, I tucked the bright orange “head” under my arm and started home, leaving all of the rejects in my dust.
Carving pumpkins for Halloween is one of my favorite traditions at this time of year. I look forward to the pumpkin picking process, designing a face, and even pulling slimy orange guts out with my hands; it’s all part of an annual project that helps encourage the Halloween and autumn spirit. For the past five years, my boyfriend and I have been carving jack o’ lanterns together. We’ve done happy faces, scary faces, and even two different faces that interact. This year, I wanted to challenge myself with something I’ve never tried before: an illuminated pumpkin. You know those pumpkins that aren’t perforated but have crazy intricate designs shaved into their skin so that the light inside just glows through?
I am so impressed by what some people can do with a pumpkin. Real artistry, craftsmanship, and creativity are required to sculpt detailed portraits and spooky scenes into lowly winter squash. I had a vision to chisel a Day of the Dead-style skull or “sugar skull” into my pumpkin, but otherwise had no idea what I was doing. My goal was to successfully execute this project and prove that it can be simple enough for anyone to do. I did a little internet research, picked up some tips along the way, and even bought a special tool at Michaels:
|Pumpkin carving tool found at Michaels. On one end, there is a small knife for intricate carving; |
on the other end, there is a specially designed skin peeler and scraper.
|The rounded edge of the tool is pushed down along the lines of your design to peel the skin off of the pumpkin. The flat edge that looks like a rake is used to scrape the already-peeled lines to make them deeper and/or thicker.|
Once you are equipped with the right tools, the next step is to find a good pumpkin and get your design on paper. We were lucky to find a perfectly head-shaped pumpkin and my boyfriend is a great artist so he was able to draw up the sugar skull in only a few minutes. If you are not artistically inclined, you can print a simple black and white, thick-lined design from the computer.
1) After you’ve drawn up or printed out an image, cut it out and tape it onto your pumpkin.
2) Using the tip of a small knife, poke holes along the lines of the image through the paper and into the pumpkin. Make sure that the holes are close together and are moving in the same direction as the lines. When you remove the paper, you may need to retrace over the lines with a marker to help you to see the design more clearly.
3) Cut off the top of the pumpkin and remove all guts and seeds. Scrape the inside of the pumpkin right behind where the image is placed so that it’s thin enough for the light to come through.
4) Using the proper tool, peel and scrape the pumpkin skin along the lines of the image.
5) Clean pumpkin and apply Vaseline to carved areas to seal in the moisture and keep it from quickly rotting. Place a candle or bright flashlight inside, turn off the lights, and watch your pumpkin glow!
|So proud of how this turned out!|
When confronted with whole roasted pumpkin seeds, I didn’t know if should eat the entire thing, shell and all, or crack it like a sunflower seed and only eat the pepita inside? So, I Googled it! Turns out you can eat them whole if you want, but it’s preferable to remove the tough outer shell first.
|Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: cumin and chili; butter and salt. |
The gravestone is Godiva chocolate!
Yield: ½ cup of each variety
Salt and Butter
- 2 Tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoon salt
Cumin and Chili
- 2 Tablespoon butter
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees
• Melt butter; in a small bowl, pour melted butter over pumpkin seeds and mix with salt/spices. Spread seeds out on a parchment lined sheet tray and cook for 15 minutes. Check occasionally and mix at half way.
|Our traditonal jack o' lantern. Looks like he thought that he was going to be left out this year!|