Pumpkin Carving Tips and Tricks

Halloween is right around the corner, and one of the most popular traditions of the season is carving pumpkins, and who wouldn’t want to know some tips and tricks to make the process a little easier and preserve the life of your pumpkin?

Pumpkins with ghoulish faces illuminated by candles are a sure sign of Halloween, but do you know where the tradition of carving pumpkins started? Ireland. That’s right, the practice of carving the Jack-O-Lantern started in Ireland. The tradition originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” As the story has it, Jack was left to wander the earth, after being denied access to both Heaven and Hell, with a piece of burning coal, which he kept inside a carved turnip. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern” and then simply “Jack-O-Lantern.” For centuries the people of Ireland would carve faces into turnips and potatoes and keep them in windows and near doors to frighten away “Stingy Jack” and other evil spirits. Immigrants then brought this tradition to America, where it was soon learned that a fruit native to the country, the pumpkin, made the perfect “Jack-O-Lanterns.”

Carving a pumpkin is a Halloween tradition no one wants to skip, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to improve your Jack-O-Lantern routine. These helpful tips and techniques are sure to make your carving process easier (and prettier) this year.

Don’t Remove the Top – Remove the Bottom

Someone somewhere decided that the best way to remove the pumpkin’s innards was by cutting a circle around the stem and removing it like a lid. But whose idea was that anyway? Once you remove your pumpkin top, water from rain seeps in as the pumpkin sits and helps decay your pumpkin quicker. The “lid” also shrinks and caves in after time, and you have to reach into the pumpkin to place a candle on the uneven bottom and light it that same way. Cut the bottom. Balance your pumpkin stem side down on a high bowl, and cut a circle out of the bottom. This way, you can place your candle right on the porch, or step, or sill and place the pumpkin over the top. How easy is that! Just don’t make your bottom removal too big. This setup will also help keep that perfect shape to your pumpkin.

Trade the Candle for Something Less Flammable 

With kids and dogs and the amount of foot traffic near your pumpkin on Halloween, the traditional candle may not be the safest and tends to blow out. Skip the flaming, drippy candle. Instead, you can fill a mason jar with a battery-powered strand of LED lights. You’ll get a beautiful glow without the heat! Fairy lights are a favorite substitution.

Remove the Pumpkin Guts with a Drill and a Beater

Let’s face it, removing the pumpkin’s seeds, and stringy flesh can be a slow and slimy job. To speed things up a bit, and create less mess, grab a beater from your hand mixer and attach it to a drill. Flip the switch and whirl it around the inside of the pumpkin. This action will grab and loosen all the insides so you can dump them into a bowl or the trash if you aren’t a pumpkin seed eater. If you are left with some stragglers, a metal ice cream scoop does a perfect job. It’s sturdier and deeper than a traditional spoon and way better than the plastic scoop that comes in a carving kit, and it will grab any lingering bits in a flash.

Share the Creative Work

Not everyone is a free-hand pro! And that’s ok! There are tools to help with that. Cookie cutters are a great thing to use for words and shapes. You will need a hammer or a mallet to help punch the cutters into the pumpkin. Once your letters or shapes are punched out, toothpicks can be used to hold the negative pieces in place.

Want a polka dot pumpkin? Or perfectly round eyes? Let a drill share some of the creative heavy liftings. Sometimes you need a power tool to make something pretty. It also takes pretty much zero effort to drill holes thru a pumpkin. Make a pretty pattern or get random with it. Either way, it will look beautiful all lit up on Halloween.

Soak Your Pumpkin

After your pumpkin is carved, soaking the whole thing in ice-cold water from 3-5 hours will help preserve the life of your pumpkin. It helps the pumpkin absorb the moisture and firm up, illuminating that sagging look some carved pumpkins can get. After the soaking time is up, remove and dry right away to prevent mold.

Once the pumpkin is out on the porch, fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of bleach. Spray the inside of the pumpkin every day, and it will stay hydrated, plus bleach will help keep any mold at bay.

Pumpkins Need Lip Balm Too

Petroleum Jelly is a great little tip for preserving the life and look of your carved masterpiece. If you rub a little on the cut edges of the pumpkin, it will help keep them from drying out and shriveling up.

Carving pumpkins is a fun tradition the whole family can enjoy. So get out there and carve up a masterpiece or two with the ones you love. Next time you see your Irish friends, make sure to thank them for bringing such a fun, festive tradition this way!


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