When it comes to carving your Halloween pumpkin, there are endless design possibilities. You can make it with the traditional happy face, or you can use stencils and make some very elaborate designs. They can be scary, weird, or funny. I’ve seen some outrageous celebrity carvings, one was of Ozzy Ozborne at a Halloween party. Now that really fit the occasion!
First, finding that perfect pumpkin. Consider the shape you want – pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure that your pumpkin is ripe, but not too ripe. Here’s a tip…when you thump on it you should hear a hollow sound. That means the pumpkin should be easy to scoop out. Remember to save those seeds for baking. Pumpkin seeds make a yummy snack! Try to find a pumpkin that also has a nice stem & remember not to carry it by the stem, always carry from the bottom.
Store your pumpkin in a cool, dry place, until ready to carve. Warm temperatures will only speed up the ripening, then rotting, process. Yuck!
Cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin and remember that you will need this part for the lid. Make sure when you make the cut that you angle it inward, so your lid will sit properly on top of the pumpkin and won’t just fall through! This was the first mistake I ever made when carving and it ruined the whole thing!
To help preserve your pumpkin and prevent mold, wash the outside and inside (when it has been cleaned out, of course) with a mild bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water), and dry. To make your design last longer, coat all of the exposed areas of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly as soon as you have finished carving, including the surfaces you have cut your design into (you may need to use a cotton swab to reach tricky spots), as this will slow down the ‘old apple’ look and shrinking.
As for the actual carving part, it’s really pretty basic – depending on your design. Draw your pumpkin pattern on a piece of paper first, this way you can make revisions without damaging the pumpkin. If you do not consider yourself to be particularly artistic, there are many ready made stencils available and some even come with pumpkin carving kits. There are great patterns that you can find online and print out.
If you use the stencil method, trim off the excess paper and tape the pattern to the pumpkin. Then poke holes through the pattern on to the pumpkin with a push pin, nail, or pumpkin poker (in pumpkin carving kits). Make a dotted line with the holes close enough for you to be able to see the design well when ready to cut – the closer, the better. This part requires patience, but it will pay off in the end. When finished, remove the paper and rub flour or powder over the holes to make them easier to see.
To actually cut the design, you should use a small serrated knife, and slowly use a sawing motion to carve your design. Never use a razor or straight edge knife, as you may slip and ruin your design, the pumpkin, or injure yourself! I prefer the tools that come with a pumpkin carving kit. They are inexpensive and it really does help to have the right tools for the job.
Once you’ve completed your design, it is ready for display! If you want to light it, use either a light made for pumpkins, or a small votive type candle in a secure holder (there are some available just for pumpkins). Place the candle (in holder) inside the pumpkin on a piece of aluminum foil. Light the candle and place the lid on the pumpkin. After a few minutes, remove the lid and look on the underside of it for smoke marks. You will want to cut small vents in the lid where the smoke left marks. This will also help preserve your pumpkin and keep you from cooking it from the inside. Happy Halloween!