Have you carved your pumpkin yet?
If you haven’t well then you should get started Hallows Eve is just a few days away.
A jack-o’-lantern is a carved pumpkin, turnip or beet, associated chiefly with the holiday of Halloween and named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called will-o’-the-wisp or jack-o’-lantern. In a jack-o’-lantern, the top is cut off to form a lid, and the inside flesh than scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved out of the pumpkin’s rind to expose the hollow interior. To create the lantern effect, a light source is placed within before the lid is closed. This is traditionally a flame or electric candle, though pumpkin lights featuring various colors and flickering effects are also marketed specifically for this purpose. It is common to see jack-o’-lanterns on doorsteps and otherwise used as decorations during Halloween.
The origin of Jack o’ Lantern carving is uncertain. The carving of vegetables has been a common practice in many parts of the world, with gourds being the earliest plant species domesticated by humans. 10,000 years ago, primarily for their carving potential. Gourds were used to carve lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago, with the Māori word for a gourd also used to describe a lampshade.
There is a common belief that the custom of carving jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween originated in Ireland, where gourds, turnips, potatoes or beets were supposedly used. They were “often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins”. From 31 October–1 November was known as Samhain at a time when spirits or fairies were particularly active, and “jack-o’-lanterns carved out of turnips or squashes and were literally used as lanterns to guide those on All Hallows’ Eve.”
Some claim that the Jack-o’-lanterns originated with All Saints’ Day 1 November-All Souls’ Day 2 November and represented Christian souls in purgatory and were sometimes set on windowsills to keep the harmful spirits out of one’s home
I thought I’d share with all of you some of the pumpkins my kids and I have carved over the last nine years that we started using carving kits and patterns, as well as helpful tips to make each pumpkin you carve stand out!
Pumpkin Carving Tips
I recycle my kits and after each use I soak them in hot water and bleach, rinse and dry thoroughly and put away for the next year.
Do not eat a pumpkin that has been carved as a jack-o’-lantern, use it for compost.
If your going to use a carving stencil, its best to print it out and take it with you when you go to pick out your pumpkin. Choose a pumpkin that will somewhat match in size.
The larger the pumpkin, the easier it is to carve. Avoid any pumpkins with bruises or stems that seem moldy as they will spoil much faster. Pumpkins with a lighter orange color tend to be softer and easier to carve.
When cutting out the top, place the knife at a 45 degree angle so the lid will have a place to rest when you replace it. If you cut straight down, the lid will fall through.
When cleaning the pumpkin, save the seeds. Toasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy as well as tasty snack. Use a large, heavy metal serving spoon or ice cream scoop to scrape out the insides. If you will be lighting the pumpkin, the back wall should be scraped as smooth as possible since this is where the light will be reflected.
For those who want their pumpkin to have a longer life, soak the cleaned pumpkin for a couple of hours in a bleach water solution of 1 tsp of bleach to one gallon of water.
Dry thoroughly, then rub inside and out, including all cut edges, with vegetable oil or petroleum jelly to prevent shriveling. If the pumpkin begins to shrivel, repeat the process. The soaking time will depend upon how dried out the pumpkin has become.
Beginners should select a simple, bold pattern. Once you master the simple patterns, you can move on to something more difficult.
Use small sharp scissors or a razor knife to cut out the areas you will be carving into the pumpkin. Tape the template onto the pumpkin and use a marker to trace the carving lines. Cutting slits in the paper will help it to conform to the round surface. Also you can tape the outline to the pumpkin and use a nail or large pushpin to score the carving lines onto the pumpkin.
Using a long serrated knife or a pumpkin-carving knife with teeth will be necessary to cut through the thick flesh. Connect the dots as you carve. Use a sawing motion and take your time cutting along the outside edge of the marker lines so there is no marker residue.
Never leave a candle-lit jack-o’-lantern unattended for any length of time.
A small battery-operated candle is a safer choice than traditional candles for lighting your jack-o’-lantern.
Sprinkle the bottom side of the pumpkin lid with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or insert whole cloves to let your jack-o’-lantern do double duty as an air freshener.
Place the jack-o’-lantern in a plastic bag and refrigerate when not in use.
Here are links to several sites that offer free “Pumpkin Carving Stencils” The site I have used for several years now Zombie Pumpkins give a portion of their profits to a different charity each year.
This year a portion of the profits from Monster Harvest members will be donated to the National Brain Tumor Society – the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the brain tumor community in the United States.
This cause is very dear to me as a dear girlfriend of mine from high school fought and won her battle with brain cancer/tumors and Robin remains in remission to date!
Free Pumpkin Carving Stencils
Decorating ideas & Costume Links
Before You Roast Your pumpkin Seeds Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
First you will need to scrape all the pumpkin seeds out of the pumpkins and place in a bowl and fill with water. Allow to soak for several hours.
Pumpkin seeds will float to the surface, making it easier to separate seeds from the pulp of the Pumpkin.
Once you have separated the seeds from pulp put the seeds into a sieve and rinse with water until there are no more traces of pulp.
Re-soak seeds in salted water for 24-48 hours to remove enzyme inhibitors in the seeds; those enzyme inhibitors can irritate your stomach, and removing them allows a production of more vitamins in the seeds. Many people also find that doing this dramatically improves the flavor of the seeds.
Lay the seeds out on paper towels and pat dry.
ABC’s of Cooking ~ Season Your Seeds
This is where you can get as creative as you want. Here are a few ideas.
Sprinkle with added salt
Toss 1 tbsp of olive or oil of your choice for each cup of seeds. Make sure all seeds are coated. This step helps more seasoning adhere to the seeds. Toss seeds in sauce like sirracha hot sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc.
Season with old bay/crab seasoning, chili powder, garlic powder & ranch powder, Cajun seasoning, and/or other strong flavors for a savory snack.
Season with soy sauce and ginger powder and a dash of brown sugar.
Season with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet snack
Season with maple syrup, chipolte powder, brown sugar.
Roasting Pumpkin Seeds. There are several ways to do this:
Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet & coat with non-stick cooking spray.
Broil – Preheat oven to the “Broil” or highest setting, Place sheet tray into the preheated oven. Watch carefully, as different ovens broil at a variety of temperatures. This should usually take no more than 10 minutes. When the top of the seeds has turned brown, you can either remove the tray for a slightly crispy and nutty texture or flip the seeds over and place back into oven for another ten minutes, or until brown.
Bake – 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes so they brown on both sides.
Pan – Roast them in a pan, constantly shifting them around so that they roast evenly and don’t stick to the pan.
Allow seeds to cool and enjoy!!!!
- Killer Pumpkin Arrangements at the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze (thisiscolossal.com)
- On jack-o’-lanterns, the drunken Irish and squirrels (lasin11.wordpress.com)
- History of the “jack-o’-lantern” (whatisapumpkin.wordpress.com)
- Pumpkin Fun After Halloween (sunshinehospitality.wordpress.com)
- Is the Great Pumpkin here yet? (bookmarkdaily.wordpress.com)
- Four ideas for a perfect Halloween proposal (ritani.com)
- Halloween Pumpkin Carving Devotion (deckofdevos.wordpress.com)
- Halloween Happiness (lessonsinbeautyeveryday.wordpress.com)
- The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze: The Best Use of Pumpkins You’ll See This Halloween (webpronews.com)
- Pumpkin Painting (anopensketchbook.wordpress.com)