This post is meant for those who have never carved a pumpkin before or who have had difficulties in carving one. I am by no means a professional but have carved a fair number for our kids and have gathered a few tips to make this job easier and fun! So are you ready, let's go...
Pick your Pumpkin
Firstly, of course you need to buy a pumpkin! Choosing the right one is very important. I would suggest you find a round medium-sized one which sits well on the ground and is stable. It would look nicer and be easier to work with if it includes a bit of stem, especially if you will be removing the seeds through the top. Another feature to look for and which would help immensely when you get to the carving part is that your pumpkin has a gently curved face and is free of soft spots or breaks and blemishes in the skin.
OK so now you know which pumpkin to choose you can go out with your kids and make your choice at a supermarket or even a pumpkin farm if you know of one. This could even be an opportunity for younger kids to connect with nature and learn how pumpkins are grown. But even if you find yourself making a last-minute run to the supermarket or wayside stand, your family can have a blast picking the perfect pumpkin.
Assemble Your Tools
You will most probably find the basic tools you need among your common household items. These are:
A cutting tool: a sharp serrated knife will do but of course needless to say this is a job for you not your young ones. While doing this job you can get them involved in choosing a pattern from here or here. Or you can have them draw their own pattern if they are good at this.
A scraper: or large kitchen spoon for scraping out the seeds and pulp.
A punch: use a nail or awl to transfer a paper pattern to the pumpkin. Just place the paper on the side where you will carve the face (sticking with tape or pinning it down with thumb tacks). Trace by punching your paper pattern along the outline.
Pattern: whether you create your own design or use a ready made pattern, it's best to have your design on paper rather than draw it directly on the pumpkin. That way, you can change your design easily without trying to erase marks on the pumpkin. However, if you feel the design is simple enough you can copy the outline using a crayon (which you can wipe off if you make an error). This way you will not need to stick the paper to the pumpkin.
I suggest using one of the easier face patterns. As I said earlier, if your kids can draw why not let them design the face pattern and work around it. To make carving easier, the cutouts should be large, simple shapes with plenty of space between them. Besides the pattern link under A Cutting Tool (see above), here are two more faces this time from Kaboose for you to print. You can also search the web for "free pumpkin carving patterns" or "free pumpkin carving stencils."
Masking Tape: use this adhesive tape if you need to attach your pattern to the pumpkin.
Baking Powder (or flour) and outliner (or sharpie) : You can rub this powder over the holes you made earlier when you traced the outline with your punch (see above). It will make it easier for you to see the pattern when you outline it with your outliner or sharpie.
Table covering: To protect your work surface from mess and for easier cleanup, cover it with newspaper or an old table cloth.
A Bowl or Colander: for scooping the seeds/pulp into when cleaning out the pumpkin.
Cutting the Lid
Place your pumpkin on some newspapers. Cut a circle around the stem of the pumpkin, using your cutting knife making about a 6 inch wide circular lid. Make the cut at an angle by keeping the tip of the blade pointed toward the centre of the pumpkin. This creates a bevel and will prevent the top from falling through when you place it back on. Work slowly with an even sawing motion and use only light pressure.
Cleaning out the Pumpkin
This is the messiest and most probably the most enjoyable part of this project. It will be quite an easy job to remove all the seeds, strings and the rest of the pulp using a scraper or large spoon. Do not throw the seeds away...you can rinse them later and roast them.
Scrape some of the flesh from the inside so your pumpkin is about an inch thick all the way around (or at least wherever you’ll be carving). You can poke a straight pin through it to estimate the thickness. Save the flesh for making pumpkin pie or soups.
**Tip** Include a small notch in your lid. This will make it easier to replace it with the correct orientation.
L**k out for Part 2