Anyone can carve a pumpkin. Here a few things you should think about so your hard work doesn’t go to waste!
What you need:
- One pumpkin
- A flat surface
- Newspaper/ old magazine/ table cloth
- Knife/pumpkin carving kit
Pumpkin carving kits can be found at most supermarkets around Halloween or on Amazon. They usually consist of mini saws (to help cut your design), a scraper scoop and some design stencils.
Finding the right fit
I believe the most important thing is choosing the right sized pumpkin. It can often work out better to choose your design before you pick your pumpkin, so you can get one that suits. Try not to buy a pumpkin too far in advance of when you want to display it, because sometimes they can spoil before you’ve even cut into them. Check the bottom and the sides to make sure that it isn’t wet, this is a good sign that it’s already going rotten.
Once carved, the pumpkin should last a few days, although this can vary. We have heard that applying Vaseline to the cuts can help preserve your design for longer. As it is bio-degradable just take the light out in the middle and put it in your compost/garden waste bin. The whole pumpkin doesn’t have to be perfect, all you need is one clear straight side to carve into.
Place newspapers down on the surface you are going to work on. Take a damp cloth or a piece of kitchen paper and spray with a disinfectant and wipe down your pumpkin. You’ll often find there are bits of dust or mud which are easy to take off, and this also helps to preserve your pumpkin. Now start by cutting the top off. There are a few ways of doing this:
Cut straight across your pumpkin. This is often the easiest method, using a bread knife, although you will find the top might slip off after you try to replace but you can use cocktail sticks to stabilise this.
Note: Light may come through where you have cut so you’ll be able to see where you have been.
Cut at an angle around the top. When you cut through the pumpkin make sure the angle of the knife is around 45° as this means you will be able to prise off the lid easier.
(If you cut vertically down you risk the lid falling in).
Note: Make sure that you cut a hole big enough to fit your fist through, I’ve done this before and gotten my hand stuck! I had to cut my way out, not ideal!
Top Tip: Whilst cutting the top, put a notch or cut out a shape so you can easily find the position in which the lid sits
Take out the guts
Get a bowl ready to pull out the flesh inside. Using a spoon or scoop (from your carving kit) and take out as much of the middle as possible. First remove the seeds and stringy bits, then carve away at the flesh to make the sides thinner so carving is easier.
Lucy also makes sure she has a second bowl, the first one collects the guts and seeds and gross bits, whilst the second bowl can be used for pumpkin flesh that can be used for baking! She usually makes a pumpkin pie or these amazing pumpkin brownies. This year she made this Tesco recipe, see the results here. Make sure there aren’t any strings of pumpkin left as this could set on a fire when you ignite your tea lights.
Sculpt Your Piece Of Art
There are lots of designs online for inspiration and often pumpkin carving kits include patterns to try.Transfer your design to your pumpkin, by freehand or by attaching the image using tape or pins. This can be tricky if your pumpkin is curved, you may have to fold parts of your paper to mould to the pumpkin.
Slice It Up
Think about the order in which you cut parts of the design. It is very easy to not pay attention and cut through and lose the detail, e.g. an eye, it happens to the best of us! I would recommend starting with the smallest detail first as the more you cut the less you have to lean against and you could capsize the walls!
I cannot emphasize enough about investing in a pumpkin carving kit, they usually only cost only a few pounds and can make your life so much easier. They are safer for children to use rather than knifes and give you more control to cut out your design.
Once you have cut out all your design, try to clean up the inside of your pumpkin where you have cut. The cleaner the cuts the more light will get through and the better the design will look.
Can’t Take The Heat?
Some people don’t realise that although tea lights are small, in a confined area – like a pumpkin, it can generate some serious heat. If the flame is too near the top, i.e. in a small pumpkin, the heat can cause the lid to shrink and you will start to see small burn marks. This isn’t a major issue it just means your pumpkin might not last as long and in some cases your lid might fall in.
Equally, if your design isn’t big enough then heat will escape through the top of your pumpkin, rather than the sides. An easy way to fix this is to pierce holes in the top/lid of your pumpkin using an apple corer or cut a shape in the top i.e. a star.
Alternatively, a battery operated candle is a great idea if you have little children or you want to minimise fire hazards. It also means that if you are putting them outside on a windy night they won’t blow out.
Light it up, stand back and enjoy the effect. Take photos as you go through so you can watch your pumpkin take shape.