Just in time for Halloween, here are some great ideas for pumpkin carving AND some tips for making your pumpkin last longer after it's carved, courtesy of Howdini guru of fun Bruce Littlefield.
How to carve a pumpkin
Tips for choosing a pumpkin for carving:
* When selecting the perfect pumpkin, look for a nice plump round shape with a rich, orange color. Make sure at least one side of the pumpkin is blemish-free, which will become the side that is carved. You can find pumpkins at a grocery store or pick your own from a pumpkin patch.
Prepare a workspace for pumpkin carving:
* Cover your work surface with newspaper.
* Gather all of your supplies:
- Long, thin bladed knife for making large cuts (such as the lid)
- Paring knife for detailed carving
- Ice cream scoop or large spoon
- Votive candle
Creating a pumpkin carving design:
* Draw your design on a piece of paper, shading in the sections that will be cut away from the pumpkin. This will serve as a stencil for carving.
* Attach the stencil to the pumpkin with thumbtacks.
* Mark the outline of the stencil into the pumpkin with the tines of a fork. This allows you to pierce through the paper to transfer the pattern onto the pumpkin.
* Once the pumpkin carving pattern has been marked with a fork, mark the pattern again with a pen. Marking the pattern with a pen makes it easier to follow the pattern when carving.
Carving the Jack O' Lantern lid:
* Make sure to slice into the pumpkin on an angle. This ensures that the lid will not fall through once it is cut out.
* The most simple shape for a lid is a square. It's much easier than carving a circle; you can cut four straight lines instead of struggling to create a round lid. No one will ever know the difference!
* Make sure the hole is large enough for you to scoop out the "guts" (the seeds and membrane) of the pumpkin with your hands and a large spoon or ice cream scoop.
Scooping out the pumpkin:
* Starting at the top, scrape the seeds and membrane on the sides of the pumpkin, so they fall to the bottom. Continue to scrape the inside of the pumpkin until all the "guts" are loose and can be taken out by hand.
* Now for the ooey, gooey fun part! Reach into the pumpkin and remove the seeds and membrane until the interior of the pumpkin is smooth and clean. Make sure to carve the bottom (inside) of the pumpkin flat so that the votive candle has a flat surface to sit on.
Carving the design:
* Use a knife with a thin, long blade to carve out the large pieces of your pattern.
* For detailed carving, it is easier to use a smaller paring knife.
* Take your time and be careful as you carve.
Lighting the Jack O' Lantern:
* Place a votive candle in a glass votive candle holder. Using a glass votive candle holder is safer and will last longer.
Making your carved pumpkin last longer (optional):
* A pumpkin can last for about a week once it is carved. To prolong its life a few extra days, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly to the carved surfaces of the pumpkin, which creates a barrier and delays rotting.
* Petroleum jelly is flammable so coat the pumpkin before you place the candle inside. Once the petroleum jelly has set, it is safe to place the candle inside.