How to Carve a Fantastic Pumpkin
There is something magical that happens when you turn a pumpkin into a Jack O’ Lantern or other carved masterpiece. It is something of a tradition in our family, and every year our creations tend to get more and more elaborate. This year’s pumpkins are pretty mild compared to some we have done in the past. It is something our whole family looks forward to in the fall, for us it marks the beginning of the change in seasons we experience here in New England. Nothing says “fall” to us more than cool crisp air, changing leaves, and a freshly carved pumpkin. We have come up with some great tips over the years that make for a fun and rewarding pumpkin carving experience. I am happy to share them with our fellow pumpkin carving enthusiasts.
1.) Pick the perfect pumpkin. It should have a good surface for carving. Make sure there are no deep ridges or bumps that will make carving difficult. Keep in mind the size of the carving you are considering. You want to make sure you have enough height to fit your design.
2.) Choose a design to carve. There are many kits available that come with pumpkin carving stencils and utensils. I highly recommend these kits for a professional look that can be created by almost anyone. They come with many stencil designs that vary from easy to difficult, so there are many different options and degrees of difficulty to choose from. You also can make your own stencil, or draw freehand on the pumpkin with a Sharpie or other permanent marker.
3.) Prepare your pumpkin for carving. Cut an access hole in your pumpkin at the top around the stem. Make sure you do not cut too far down the carving surface of the pumpkin. Cutting about 2 inches from the stem all the way around usually work well, make sure to angle your cut slightly inward so your top will not fall in when replaced. Then scoop out the insides of the pumpkin. If you save the seeds they are great for roasting for a tasty snack (wash the seeds thoroughly, salt lightly, and then bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes). After you have scooped out the inside of the pumpkin, choose which surface of the pumpkin you will carve. If your pumpkin is really thick, it is a good idea to scrape down the inside of the pumpkin where you will carve it. This makes carving difficult designs a little easier.
4.) Transfer your design. If you are drawing your own design, then go for it. Just make sure you do not draw where you will not be cutting. For example, if you are cutting a smile with teeth do not draw the smile first then add the teeth because you will have a black line across your tooth! If you are using a paper design, tape your stencil onto your pumpkin. Sometimes you have to fold the paper around the edges to make it fit to the round surface of your pumpkin. Pumpkin carving kits come with a tool to transfer your design by poking small holes along the cutting lines. You could also use a toothpick.
5.) Carve your pumpkin. Using your knife (serrated works best) or pumpkin carving tool, connect the dots of your stencil to cut out your design. Working in small sections works best. If you have a large piece to cut out, sometimes it is a good idea to do it in smaller sections, especially if it is an intricate design. Don’t be afraid to go back and scrape down the wall of the pumpkin where you are carving, this can make the process much easier if you are struggling! Another great tip is to let the tool do the work, just like cutting a loaf of bread, let the serration of the tool cut through the pumpkin. It will be much easier to control your tool if you are not putting a lot of pressure on it.
6.) Light and enjoy. Tea lights work best because they are encased in metal and they will not burn or melt wax into your pumpkin. Lastly, light up your pumpkin and display it so it can be enjoyed for the work of art that it is!