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It’s fall. And we know what that means! Hot cocoa, beautiful sunsets, and crisp foggy cold night air. The leaves turning yellow, orange and brown. Kids running and laughing and stomping through the falling leaves. It really does set the scene for upcoming Halloween and pumpkin carving season. It’s fun, it’s spooky and absolutely something we can all at any age get involved in.
Pumpkin has always been one of my favorite vegetables and since being introduced to this festive season, it has become one of my favorite things ever. Not only is it a large influential ingredient in the many fall dishes sweet and savory alike, but it’s also the epitome of Halloween.
From decorative plastic, special buckets used for trick-or-treating, or carved and hollowed out, glowing on your front porch, the pumpkin is versatile in its many forms.
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Pumpkin carving is a time-honored tradition for many. And I know as our young kids grow, the joy of carving and decorating, to dressing up and trick or treating will play a large part in our family memories.
I’m not the most creative or artistic person and with a bunch of little kids my time is very limited, so the thought of planning and spending time decorating, or even coming up with how and what to do is beyond my abilities right now, let alone cooking dinner every night. Using an inspiring and instructional book to walk me through the steps and techniques is such an easy way for me to get organized. So we are setting a date to visit a pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins and then we will be getting started with the decorating thanks to Colleen Dorsey’s Easy Pumpkin Carving.
Here are some important tips and tricks found in the book Easy Pumpkin Carving by Colleen Dorsey.
Traditional Pumpkin Carving Techniques
Here they are, the very essentials of pumpkin carving! By following these steps that you probably had down when you were a kid, you can get carving with any traditional pumpkin carving pattern. You’ll need a little elbow grease and a tolerance for the mess to use this technique, but it’s totally worth it.
Pre-Carving Pumpkin Prep
1. Clean the Pumpkin
Prep the pumpkin first by rinsing it in cold water and use a scrub brush to remove any dirt. If you want, you can spray the entire pumpkin with a mild bleach and water solution to kill mold and bacteria.
2. Cut out the Lid
Use a sturdy knife to slowly and carefully carve out and remove the lid of the pumpkin, going in at an angle rather than straight down in. Alternatively, you can cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, which will mean you can sit your pumpkin on top of a light rather than placing a light inside the pumpkin.
3. Clean Out the Insides
Use a scoop to completely empty the inside of the pumpkin of flesh and seeds. Keep scraping away at the inner walls of the pumpkin until you only have about a 1” (2.5cm) thick pumpkin wall that is nice and smooth.
4. Attach the Pattern
Transfer the pattern using your desired method. Check out Easy Pumpkin Carving for tons of patterns to choose from.
Actually carving your pumpkin is simple enough. Here are some tips to make carving easy and effective:
- Saw steadily with a continuous up and down motion, and don’t press too hard or try to go too fast.
- When you’re finished cutting out a standalone piece (like an eye), pop it out of the pumpkin wall with your finger, not your carving tool.
- To cut clean, sharp corners, remove and reinsert the carving tool.
- Carve starting from the inside of the design and working your way outward.
- Resist the urge to put your free hand inside the pumpkin while carving. Only do so if you can clearly see where all of your hand is.
- If you accidentally break off a part of your carving as you work, such as a protruding tooth, stick it back on with a toothpick!
Preserve Your Pumpkin!
Keep your carved pumpkin cool and out of the direct sunlight. (You can even put it in the fridge). You can also coat the interior and all cut edges with petroleum jelly to help lock in the pumpkin’s natural moisture, or purchase special preservative sprays for pumpkins.
I highly recommend this book – Easy Pumpkin Carving by Colleen Dorsey which includes an explanation of the many different types of Pumpkins, a list of traditional carving tools, information on how to use patterns, 5 different types of decorating techniques – (Technique 1: Traditional Carving, Technique 2: Making Luminaries, Technique 3: Etching, Technique 4: Multi-Pumpkin Projects, Technique 5: Embellishing), and lastly it includes a number of patterns. It makes pumpkin decorating easy, introduces a variety of different techniques and is easy to follow.
We are going to have so much family fun with pumpkins this year. I can’t wait.
(Images courtesy of Fox Chapel Publishing and Colleen Dorsey)