Thanks to the fact that I grew up in a country that had no clue about Halloween, I only ever got to experience this spooky festival vicariously through bad American horror movies and books. I would jealously look at their funky cakes and carvings and wish for it myself.
Now that I am able to celebrate this utterly brilliant and mad festival, I have had to learn how to do everything from scratch. Like, how do you carve a pumpkin? Yeah, sounds easy but how do you carve a pumpkin that actually looks like something recognisable. The only reason my Indiana Jones pumpkin looked like him was because I stuck a hat on it. Same goes for my Darth Vader pumpkin – it was all about the hat.
Then there was the fact that, after having lit a candle inside it and enjoyed the mad dancing shadows, I had no idea that within 24 hours a terrifying green fungus would grow inside. It makes sense that it would but at the time I was aghast. So, to save the rest of you from my mad mishaps I have gone out and asked the experts – how do you carve a pumpkin, properly?
Well, the first thing I was told by a huge fan of pumpkin carving was to check out this video on YouTube. It is very well done and really well documented. I heartily recommend it, for the cool music if nothing else. Although I did wince when I saw how close his kid was to the knife!
Ok so, what do you do? First off buy a pumpkin. I noticed that the co-op has a special offer on pumpkins at the moment so take a look at that and see if you can get your perfect pumpkin at a discount. And don’t bother buying all sorts of fancy pumpkin carving paraphernalia either.
Unless you plan on taking up pumpkin carving as a potential career and want to create masterpieces that make other people weep with amazement, you only need some of your basic household knives. Sharp ones, obviously, but nothing enormously fancy.
Then you need a design. If you are like me, then it is likely you won’t be able to draw an amazing design at all. I once tried to draw a horse and it honestly looked like a sick camel. I wanted a truly stunning pumpkin that would amaze people but there was no way I would be able to draw it myself.
This is where the interwebz became my greatest ally. Sites like The Pumpkin Lady have hundreds of free designs for you to choose from and some of them are utterly brilliant. My personal favourites are the Fairytales and Pattern Packs that are on offer at The Pumpkin Lady or the Egyptian Pharaoh ones from Spook Master.
Then you need to get the guts out of your pumpkin. No, not like the picture below…
Actually that is one of my favourite pumpkin designs. It’s a bit sick but very clever. Right, back to the guts. Cut off the crown of your pumpkin with a sharp serrated knife and scoop the insides out using a spoon. This sounds easy but is hard work and I recommend using the knife to sort of jiggle the tough bits free.
Once you have scooped and cleaned your little chap out you can then take out some of the pumpkin flesh itself. I tend to take out more rather than less here, I weigh it as I go so I can make pumpkin pie out of it once I’m done with the carving. Seems like such a waste of yummy pumpkin otherwise.
Then place your design on the pumpkin and poke holes along the design so you can cut it out accordingly. The more holes the better – you need that shape to be obvious as you cut. Once I have poked holes through the paper I then use a black pen to outline it so it is easier to see what I am doing. I also use thumb tacks to hold the paper in place while I outline the pattern.
Once you have finished all that you have done most of the hard work. Those of you who have wood carving tools will make easy work out of cutting the shapes into the flesh. Those of you who, like me, only have kitchen knives will have a harder time of it but it really is worth it.