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How to carve a pumpkin

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If you want to make a good impact on the spookiest night of the year, there’s no better way to do it than with an expertly carved pumpkin. If you’re hoping to impress the neighbours and terrify trick or treaters at Halloween, why not follow these simple steps to making the best Jack O’Lantern down the street?

Step 1: Choose your pumpkin

There are so many different sized pumpkins available, from tiny “munchkins” to much bigger varieties, and you should choose the largest one you can find for the space you have available. The reason for this is simple: if it's your first time carving a pumpkin, the larger it is the easier it will be to carve.

Step 2: Scoop out the insides

Before you can begin carving a design into your pumpkin, you’ll need to scoop out the insides. Start by carefully cutting a hole in the crown using a serrated knife, making sure that you angle the blade at about 45 degrees so that the lid will rest comfortably on top when you replace it – if you cut straight down, the lid will fall through when you try to put it back on.

Next, use a large spoon to remove all the seeds and fibres from within, along with some of the flesh of the pumpkin. However, don’t throw everything away – the seeds will make a healthy and tasty snack if they’re roasted, while the flesh can be used to make a delicious pumpkin pie.

With all the innards taken out and put to one side, you’ll now be able to scrape the walls of the pumpkin – try to make them as smooth as possible.

Step 3: Get creative & get carving

Now it’s time to let the creative juices flow and bring your Halloween design to life. If you’re at all unsure about what you want to carve into your pumpkin, it’s a good idea to practice drawing your design on paper beforehand. Start with something simple if this is your first attempt at carving.

Once you’re happy with your design on paper, use a steady hand to draw it straight on to the pumpkin using a marker pen. If you’re a little uncertain about doing this, there’s a simple alternative: just stick the paper template on to the side of the pumpkin, then trace your design by going round the edges of the features with a needle or pin, poking little holes into the pumpkin as you go. In this way, when you remove the paper you’ll be able to see an outline of pinholes that you can use as a guide to show you where to carve.

With that done, all that’s left to do is to start cutting into the pumpkin. Make sure you use a serrated knife and a sawing motion. Remember to keep the blade facing away from you in case your hand slips.

Step 4: Light your pumpkin

There are several different ways to illuminate your pumpkin, beginning with the traditional tea light. Simply put one in a glass holder and place it in the middle of your pumpkin, making sure the lid is off while it’s lit and never leave it unattended.

A safer alternative, particularly if children are around, is to use battery operated tea lights, or a string of lights wrapped around a glass jar – you can carve a little hole in the bottom of the pumpkin to allow room for the wire. Just remember to always switch off and unplug the lights if you’re leaving the house or going to bed.

Top tips
  • If you want to leave the lid on your pumpkin while a candle burns inside, simply cut a small hole on the back of it. This will act as a chimney and won’t be seen by anyone admiring your design from the front.

  • To prevent your pumpkin from rotting too quickly, try wiping it inside and out with a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water, then apply a thin layer of Vaseline over the cut areas.

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