Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pumpkins Part I -- Fabulous Pumpkin Carving

'Tis the season, so I wanted to address the subject of pumpkins, but soon realized it was way too big for a single post. Heck, it's too big for the 2 posts, I've allotted to it. But they're worth reading, cause pumpkins are pretty amazing things.

Today we're going to talk strictly about pumpkin carving. There's good sense to this dividing line between pumpkin carving and pumpkin eating -- the perfect Jack O Lantern pumpkin bears little resemblance to the perfect eating pumpkin (more on that topic in tomorrow's post).

How to Carve Pumpkins
Before you can begin to carve your design, you must prepare the pumpkin by removing the seeds and thinning the inner walls. Save the seeds to make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, a great snack that is rich in fiber as well as vitamins B and E. Kids especially love them. Purists will want only salt as a seasoning, but if you're feeling adventurous, experiment and have fun with seasoning blends. The recipe link in this paragraph will give you lots of options for making gourmet seasoned and flavored pumpkin seeds.

Depending on the complexity of your design, allow an hour or more to make your Jack O Lantern. By the way, the techniques for carving pumpkins will also work for carving turnips, some squash or even watermelons. Get detailed step-by-step photo instructions on how to cut and clean your pumpkin, transfer a pattern design to your pumpkin and complete the carving at the Pumpkin Carving 101 article.

The Next Generation of Pumpkin Carving:
I am proud to announce the launch of Enigma Communications' newest online venture, This unique online application(meaning you use it over the internet) lets you create an unlimited number of custom pumpkin carving patterns, sized to fit your particular pumpkins. With’s help, the Jack O Lanterns at your house will make those of your neighbors pale in comparison.

The most unique aspect of is that it lets you turn your favorite photographs into pumpkin carving patterns, just like the ones you see of celebrities every year at Halloween. Put portraits of the kids, the grandkids, Grandma and Grandpa, your boss, your teacher -- even the dog and cat -- on your carved pumpkins. The Photo Lantern creator changes photos into pumpkin carving patterns in a few easy steps.

In addition, the site's Pattern Maker component let's you have a lot of fun mixing and matching Jack O Lantern elements like eyes, noses, mouths, and extras like bats, witches and bones to create one-of-kind pumpkin carving patterns. Each element can be rotated, flipped and resized, giving you the ultimate control of how your pattern looks. You can even put Pattern Maker elements on Photo Lantern patterns.

It's free (and fun!) to play around and create patterns, when you're ready to print, it costs just .99 cents for a pattern that you can reprint, resize and reuse over and over again (less if you buy a package of pattern credits). To check it out, click the Demo button at

FREE Political Pumpkin Patterns! Why
settle for an ordinary campaign sign on your front law when you can show
your support by carving a photo-realistic portrait of your favorite candidate
on a Jack O Lantern. Whether you carve Barack Obama and Joe Biden, or John
McCain and Sarah Palin, these awesome pumpkin portraits are sure to attract
lots of attention for your favorite candidates. Show your support by carving
Political Pumpkins. Click on the link below to access free carving patterns
at The designs may look complicated, but as long as
you have a pumpkin carving kit with a tiny saw, all it takes is time and
a little patience. (Note: These patterns were made using

here to access the free Political Pumpkin Carving Patterns.

Pumpkin Carving Tips and Tricks
  • The size and shape of your design will determine whether you need a tall narrower pumpkin or a round one.
  • Decide your design in advance and choose your pumpkin accordingly. Choose a pumpkin that is smooth as possible, and free of scratches, dents or gouges, unless you plan to incorporate them into your finished design.
  • You can make the transferred dots of your pattern easier to see by rubbing flour into them. The flour will fill the holes and turn them white.
  • To make sharp corners, always remove the saw completely and re-insert it at a different angle.
  • To remove cut pieces, push them out from the inside with your finger or a poker. To make removing large pieces easier, and to avoid damage to your design, cut them into smaller chunks before trying to remove them.
  • Toothpicks are good for adding extra features like ears or noses.
  • If you're having trouble with your candles going out, try using a small oil-burning lamp or liquid candle.
  • Plant Hangers make a great way of displaying jack o lanterns. A wonderfully spooky display is to use several plant hangers of different lengths in a grouping, so that in the dark, it looks like several glowing faces floating in mid air.
  • Photographing Jack O Lanterns is a bit tricky. A flash won't work, but if the candle in the pumpkin is the only light source, the photo will only show the design and not the pumpkin. To show both design and pumpkin, try using a single light source, slightly forward and above of the Jack O Lantern.
  • Washing the inside with a mild bleach solution will slow the process of decay.
  • Coat the cut edges of the pumpkins with petroleum jelly to help them last longer. The longer the candle is left burning, the quicker the pumpkin will decompose.
  • Electric lights work well instead of candles. Use a 25-watt candelabra bulb for maximum brightness; lower wattage if you plan to leave it on a long time.
  • If you really want to make your creations last, put them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator when not on display.
  • You can re-attach and repair broken pieces with toothpicks or straight pins.
  • Discourage squirrels and other critters from making a meal of your pumpkin by sprinkling it with liberally with Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper.
  • Sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice inside your Jack O' Lantern to give the air a spice aroma!
Volume Pumpkin Carving Tip!
Jerry Squires, a reader from Boise, Idaho who carves at least 60 pumpkins each year (thereby earning his home the affectionate nickname of "The Pumpkin House") sent in this tip for volume carvers:

A shop vacuum can be used to both scrape and remove the pumpkin interior. Place a wand extension attachment on the end of the shop vacuum hose. Then place the other end of the wand into the pumpkin. Scrape the sides and bottom of the inside of the pumpkin with the wand. This saves a large amount of time and effort.


Lisa Knight said...

I don't think we're artistically ready to carve a photo into our pumpkins, LOL! But we have used patterns in the past. We grow our own & they tend to have very thick walls which makes cutting the fine details hard.

On the Kitty Litter cake - I think I would want the coloring to be authentic, but I'd never actually eat it LOL!

Cheri Sicard said...

The faces do take some patience, but you get a real feeling of accomplishment when you finish. Some aren't so hard, like the one of comedian Chipper Lowell in the ad. When you look at what actually has to be caved, you can see that it really isn't that difficult. The Sarah Palin pumpkin, on the other hand, would be quite a challenge.

As far as thick pumpkins, they can be used with good success, you just have to put some elbow grease into thinning out the walls from the back side. Pumpkin Masters makes a serrated edge scraper scoop that is one of the best tools I have used for this purpose. You could also consider just carving the outside -- taking out just the outermost orange layer. The light will still shine through and show your design, but you don't actually carve the pieces out. You're just scraping of the outermost part.

We have tons more free pumpkin carving patterns at as well, some easy, some challenging.

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