Pumpkin Carving

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Pumpkin Carving

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Review of "Pumpkin Carving"

published 01/11/2010 | Novabug
Member since : 03/10/2010
Reviews : 138
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About me :
www.thenovabug-blog.blogspot.co.uk - Read it! ;) Like video games? I write for The Pixel Empire, a retrospective game site that bucks the trend! Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook! www.thepixelempire.net
Pro Fun for the family if you like Halloween.
Cons Pointless if you don't like Halloween
very helpful

"What a Carve up!....for a Pumpkin at Halloween."

Finished pumpkin Jack O Lantern

Finished pumpkin Jack O Lantern

This is a small article of tips and hints on carving a great looking pumpkin Jack O Lantern for Halloween. Yes, I know that I should have posted this two days ago to be of any use this year, but due to Ciao taking a while to process my request and personal commitments, unfortunately it’s a bit late, but bookmark this review for next year’s Halloween. :D

Now, I know many people dislike Halloween for various reasons; some because of its Celtic origin, it sometimes has heavy emphasis on gory and unsavoury images or just because of the trouble that can happen with “trick or treating”, which in some areas has became known as “Mischief Night” when teenagers believe they can act like nutters and cause all sorts of inconvenience and trouble to their local neighbourhoods. Personally, I love the Halloween celebrations, chiefly because my birthday and my fathers birthday are on the 31st. Due to this, I have been given the pumpkin carving duties for many years, and have become quite adept at it. So, if you enjoy All Hallow’s Eve, here is a way to make a great looking Jack O Lantern for the family home.

The Jack O Lantern has its historic links with various different legends and folklore, but mainly originated from the Irish people, who would hollow out turnips in these images. When large sections of their population moved to America, they took this tradition with them. Turnips were not as available as in Ireland, but they were in abundance of pumpkins, and so used them instead. The common believed purpose of this practice is to warn off evil spirits and demons of such like. This is purely the tradition and custom of Halloween, but it is fun and rewarding to create a decorative and amusing ornament from one of the most well know squash fruits, and here is how to do it the easy way.

Pick up that Pumpkin

Most pumpkins grown in the UK for Halloween are specifically selected for carving, many may have inedible parts or have started to become rotten. Also, they are larger than your basic culinary pumpkin, and certainly will not be as tasty if used in a recipe for pies, soups and such like. By all means, save the flesh and seeds (the seeds particualy should be very useful) if you wish for consumption, but be aware that you may not get the quality of fruit you require or expect.

I try to select a pumpkin which is around the size of a football, with a mostly flat bottom and a pronounced stalk. This is handy for placing your finished work on a stable surface, and for easy access to the tea lights or candles that you use to illuminate it. I also get one that is rather clean and unmarked without gouges or cuts, rotten areas, or insect infestation. A Carving pumpkin will normally cost around the £2 to £3 mark to buy, but they can be on offers especially close to Halloween night.

Prep that Pumpkin

Once you have chosen your “Winter Squash”, clean the outside thoroughly with plain cold water and a tea-towel. Have a dry marker or water-based felt tip pen to hand, and use a natural colour like green, orange or brown. If the ink seeps into the flesh when cutting, it will not be so obvious using these colours. Draw a circle around the top, with about two inches of radius from the stalk. Use a very sharp vegetable knife or paring knife for this, which is not too wide and no longer than four inches in length. Make an incision either side of the stalk on your guide line, and carefully join the two cuts in a steady motion, with the knife about halfway embedded. If you find cutting the curves to difficult, take more of the knife out and make repeated shallower cuts on the guideline. Once you have done this, grasp the stalk and gently twist off the top of the pumpkin.

Now, get your hands slimy! Put your hand inside and pull as much of the flesh and seeds out as you can. When you have done this, take a large dessert spoon and scrape the inside of the pumpkin, removing the rest of the surface flesh and seeds. Try not to scrape so hard, as you don’t want to stick the spoon through the sides. Turn the pumpkin over and tap of the base to knock out any remaining contents. Continue to scrape the inside until you have no more than two centimetres of flesh in distance from the outer skin. This will make it easier to carve the face details and there will be more room for your tea lights. Give the inside of the pumpkin a good rinse and pat dry with a tea towel or kitchen towels.

Put a Face on that Pumpkin

Now comes the fun part. You can put any kind of face or design style you wish onto your pumpkin, but be aware of how difficult it may be to carve. The traditional classic style is triangular or semi-circle eyes, and triangular nose and a wide mouth with gappy, spaced apart teeth. This is what I usually base mine on. Make practice drawings on some paper if you wish. Using your pen from before, draw your design onto the cleanest side, remembering not to place the features to close together, as when they are cut out, the remaining flesh will need to be thick enough to support them. When you are happy with your design, I generally start with the eyes first. Make shallow cuts to start with, tracing the outline on the surface skin completely, before cutting deeper a second time to penetrate the pumpkin fully. Its easier to make accurate carvings and details in this manner, and a mistake with not be as devastating as a deeper cut will be. If you are having trouble with cutting the curves precisely (such as eyeballs, rounded teeth), use a small craft knife or even a scalpel (use care!) to cut the outlines. If the blade if long enough, use these too to cut the deeper incision. Alternatively, you can use a needle and some fishing line to follow you outlines.

Carving the mouth can be the most awkward bit. If you make a mistake, you can accidently cut a tooth off or make the shape of the mouth lopsided. Carve the mouth in sections. Start with one side, cut your outline and then cut down through the part of the pumpkin which is to be removed, taking car not to cut past your guideline you have drawn. Take you time on this and do it carefully. The mouth of the face is the most noticeable feature and so really get it right. When removing the sections you have cut out, push them gently from the inside, making sure you have cut right through, has breaking the parts off can ruin your design.

A little tidying is needed now. Using your vegetable knife again, carefully “shave” the inner edges of the holes you have carved. Try to slope the flesh outward towards the inside of pumpkin, this will achieve a better effect when it is lit up. Also, remove any loose or stringy bits of flesh which may be clustered around the features. Finish up by wiping the face, removing any traces of the pen lines.

Place a Light in that Pumpkin

I personally use small tea lights for this, but you can use short candles or even small torch lights. Two tea lights put next to each other gives enough light for it to look great without it being to busy inside, and also reduces the fire risk. On that note, the inside of the pumpkin can dry out quickly, so always be wary of this and take sensible precautions. If you wish to place the top of the pumpkin back on, place at and angle to the original hole, leaving a gap for air to get in and for smoke to escape. The top will sometimes burn a little and shrink considerably, so again, be mindful of this. The top may fall into the pumpkin if it has shrunk too much. Place your finished pumpkin on a flat, ceramic surface, either on the inside of the home, on your doorstep or on your windowsill. Job Done!

You can vary designs greatly with your carvings, I have talked about a tradition scary or comical face design, but you can carve almost anything you wish. A nice effect sometimes is to carve the skin off only, and when lit from inside will produce a orange, translucent effect. Also, I have described my method using the kind of tools you would have readily in your home. There are special pumpkin and turnip carving sets available with tools specific to this practice.

Hope I have helped in some way, and below are some handy links for you to get some design ideas from. Happy Halloween!


Thanks for Reading. © Novabug.

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Comments on this review

  • Deesrev published 05/06/2011
    Back with the E me loverlee :D xXx
  • Deesrev published 29/04/2011
    You should be on Art Attack! What a real fun daddy you are my loverly; Will be back to upgrade VH to an E asap. I’m fairly behind on my E list but promise that I will be back xXx
  • laura2310 published 07/11/2010
    Aww, I love Halloween!!! Really helpful review, will try to remember it for next year! x
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Product Information : Pumpkin Carving

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Listed on Ciao since: 29/10/2010