Tis the season to be scared (not the season to be jolly so please take note supermarkets and take those Christmas displays down OK). So, this means it is time to make pumpkin pie, yay! And what better way to make the dark nights more fun than by turning the pumpkins into their own special lanterns?
I love Halloween. Partly because it is the only time you can give kids sweeties by the handful! But also because for me it is one of the cheapest, if not THE cheapest, themed event of the year. I've talked before about how I made costumes out of bin liners. Now I'm looking at how a few quid spent on a vegetable can turn your house into a Halloween mecca and feed you.
What I love the most about the simple pumpkin is how this one item can totally transform a house into a Halloween friendly home. What other single decoration can achieve the same result? Not even a Santa on his own is enough to warm up an entire night.
But the first time I took my son and some friend's children trick or treating around our friendly neighbourhood, I couldn't help notice and marvel at just what a difference a smiley faced pumpkin with a candle in it made!
Lots of houses had put just one, or sometimes up to three, of these in their front porches to show they were open and ready to receive little trick or treaters and hand out candy. And on a cold, dark October night, they looked warm and inviting with their glowing faces and rich orange colour.
And all for the cost of just a cheap pumpkin and a tealight! So this year I resolved to make one myself, and because there's no point in wasting good vegetables, find out how to make something out of the scooped out innards.
Pumpkin carving. Simple right? All you have to do is stick a knife in it, make a mouth and some eyes. Anyone can do that right? Four ruined pumpkins later and my other half and I decided that maybe we should try looking this up online.
The rather fun pumpkin (the one vomiting its insides in best horror fashion pictured near the top of this post) is meant to be a super easy pumpkin carving that will take you less than ten minutes to do. Find out more here.
Unsurprisingly perhaps most of the sites I found on this subject were American. One of the more interesting I came across was Pumpkin Carving 101. This site even covers how to 'lay to rest' your pumpkin after the 31st! In my borough this burial will be taking place in the food scraps bin.
The pumpkin carving tutorials on here are fab, with lots of practical tips. Believe it or not, but make a six sided hole in the top really did work far better than trying to curve out a round one. I don't know why that's the case, maybe it is because you are only concentrating on cutting a bit at a time. At least with this method I didn't accidentally slice right down the side of the pumpkin.
My son and his friend had a great time making a big gooey mess pulling all the innards out of the pumpkin.
In the strange way that the internet throws things up, I came across this site here on doing your carving using a drill and cutting bit. I have to admit I'm pretty intrigued. It would probably be a lot easier than using a knife. Is this how people do those really intricate designs then?
The other site we found that was immensely useful, particularly on how to select a pumpkin, was a British one. If you're not already familiar with the BBC's fabulous H2G2 website, founded by Douglas Adams of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy fame, then start now. This is a marvellous, fully edited, gold mine of interesting and helpful information. Check out this entry on The Perfect Halloween Pumpkin.
I came across a couple of good tips. One is that you can restore a dry, wrinkled up pumpkin by soaking it in water. The other is that a coating of petroleum jelly will stop it drying out too quickly. Now this is something I'd never have thought of, and if you're making your pumpkin lanterns a day or two before hand it is probably pretty vital. It won't surprise you to find that in the US you can buy pumpkin preserving dip or pumpkin preserver spray to do the same thing.
Next time - pumpkin recipes! What to do with all the stuff you scoop out. Do you have a favourite pumpkin pie recipe?