In the Spirit
The pumpkin is to Halloween what the turkey is to Thanksgiving. Picking out pumpkins and deciding how to decorate them is one of the most enjoyable traditions of the season—next to collecting all that candy, of course. Whether your pumpkin of choice is large and round, short and squatty or tall and long, here are our tips for creating the perfect jack-o-lantern.
Start with a perfect pumpkin.
It should be firm and hard, free of soft spots and have its stem still attached. Make sure it has an even bottom so it can stand up. Find a perfect carving pumpkin from local farmers at Big Y.
When cutting around the stem to create a “lid,” make sure to hold the knife at an angle.
This will create a lip that will help keep the top from slipping through when it’s cut. And instead of cutting in a circle, create a six-sided shape around the stem. It will be easier while also making the top less likely to cave in later.
Clean out the inside of the pumpkin with a metal spoon.
Remove all seeds and scrape interior walls clean of starchy fibers. (For a tasty snack, bake the seeds! Simply rinse seeds and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle seeds with oil, salt and any other flavorings you like. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until brown, crispy and fragrant.)
Whether you’re using a pre-printed pattern or devising your own design, trace it onto your pumpkin before starting to carve.
Tape the paper with your design onto your pumpkin; then, use a pin to poke tiny holes into the rind along the lines of the design. When you remove the paper, your design will be easy to follow and carve – just connect the dots!
Have the right tools.
Purchase pumpkin carving kits at Big Y! Most come with small serrated tools that make intricate carving a little easier. If you’re using your own utensils, stick with a sharp paring knife and a small serrated knife. Leave the butcher knife in the drawer. It’s too big for the job!
Master your carving technique.
Use short sawing motions rather than hard thrusts of the knife. It’s safer, gentler and you’re less likely to “over-carve” and mess up your design. Needless to say, kids should be spectators to carving rather than active participants, though older kids can help draw and trace patterns. And everyone can pitch in when cleaning out the pumpkin—if they (and you) aren’t afraid of getting a little messy.
If you’re looking for a knife-free way to decorate your pumpkin, consider painting it.
Your imagination is the only limitation here. Get yourself acrylic paints and brushes and let the fun begin!