By Jessica Sly
Jack-o’-Lanterns are one of the main staples of October. They line sidewalks, complement the fall leaves, flicker from windows and greet Trick-or-Treaters.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you create your own!
Picking a pumpkin: Find one that is fairly uniform all the way around. The shape is up to your preference, but the flatter the surface, the easier it will be to carve. Avoid pumpkins with moldy stems or bruises.
Pumpkins with a lighter color have a softer skin, making them easier to carve. However, they are more prone to shriveling.
Getting started: Don’t begin carving your pumpkins until a couple days before Halloween or the event for which you are using them, as they are quick to shrivel.
When you cut out the lid, saw with the knife at a 45-degree angle, the tip pointing toward the stem. The angle keeps the lid from falling through after it’s cut.
Gutting: Use a spoon or pasta scoop to scrape out the seeds and the pulp until the inside of the pumpkin is clean. Scrape until the pumpkin wall is about one inch thick. This part can be tedious, but the result is worth it.
Save the pumpkin seeds to season and roast later for a tasty treat (see related recipe).
Carving: You can either draw your own design, print one out from your computer or use one from a coloring book. Tape the design template to the surface of the pumpkin. Cutting slits in the edges of the template may help it lay flatter on the pumpkin.
Then poke holes all the way around the design. Remove the template and cut, using the poked holes as a guide.
It helps to hold the knife as you would a pen or pencil. Then saw at a 90-degree angle, using a gentle back-and-forth motion. This helps with accuracy and helps keep the remaining pumpkin parts intact.
Lighting: If you use a real candle, it helps to carve an extra hole in the lid for ventilation. Light the candle, place it in the pumpkin and put the lid on. After about a minute, remove the lid and cut a little “chimney” where the candle smoke made a mark.
For a dazzling display, use a strobe or multi-colored LED light.
If you use a real candle, try sprinkling the inside of the pumpkin with nutmeg, cinnamon or pumpkin spice. When the candle is lit, it will create a wonderful fall scent.
TIP: To help keep your pumpkin from drying out, rub the cut edges and inside with petroleum jelly. When it is not on display, spray it with water, cover in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
If it starts to shrivel, soak in water for a few hours. Then thoroughly dry the inside with a towel to help prevent mold growth.
Pumpkin Serrated knife
Newspaper Spoon or pasta scoop
Permanent or dry-erase marker
Nail or poking tool
Candle or LED light