When life gives you pumpkins, throw a pumpkin carving party! That's what we do this time of year. It has been a long standing tradition for my mother and father in law who host a big carving party. For years, they have set up in the "shop" where there is plenty of space to spread out and get comfortable. If some pumpkin guts get on the floor, no biggie! Plus we have access to tools and props from the shop and anything is game for creating a pumpkin masterpiece. Wire is always a helpful accessory. Rubber tubing and spray paint is cool too!
The only rule is that the littlest person in the family will be put into the biggest pumpkin (usually for a baby crying photo op). Is that mean? nah... all in good fun. The past few years, the size of the pumpkins have gotten ridiculously big where now, everyone can basically have a turn inside a pumpkin. The in-laws got to know a pumpkin farmer in the area and we've gone to the big pumpkin weigh off every year. This year, they treated us to 3 really really really big ones and a giant watermelon as well. We had 15 other odds and ends pumpkins. The local grocery store has good size carving pumpkins for $6.50 (buy one get one free).
Now that I’ve had the honor of co-hostiong this event, I have some good tips for throwing a carving party.
Things you need:
Buckets for pumpkin guts
Tools for carving:
You might be able to get away with using kitchen knives and spoons but the kits that you can find at the store really work well. They provide all size knives and scrapers (greatly needed) and hole punchers etc. Since we are in the shop, we’ve been known to use power tools as well.
Pumpkin carving is hard work and we need fuel! This year we made some Halloween themed desserts. (monster feet from nutter butter cookies and cashews etc.)
Cider is a must. I also made a sangria and put into a frozen hand (I filled a rubber glove with water and put it in the freezer)
a must for every good party
Come one, come all… from 2 months old to 85 years old… this is a family friendly party. We encourage everyone to carve a pumpkin but if you are more the sit back and watch kind, feel free.
Eat a donut on a string (no hands), pop the balloon (no hands)
Some tips for carving:
Design: Before you puncture the pumpkin, you must to have a plan. Find inspiration anywhere! Do that thing that gets your ideas flowing… take a jog, surf the web, drink some coffee… the possibilities for your pumpkin design are endless. What is your goal? Tradition? Precision? Shock and awe? Humor? Horror? Martha Stewart-ish?
Consider collaborating more than one pumpkin into your design (see cookie Monster!) and look for props to add to the pumpkin as well (look at the one with glasses on above). Take a good look at the shape of your pumpkin to see if it inspires you. Feel free to turn it around and upside down to see different shapes.
There is nothing wrong with the traditional jack-o-lantern expression (triangle eyes and a big teethy smile) but why not challenge yourself? Go off the map. Try carving some special words- maybe your favorite “expression” (OMG or University logo). How about your favorite logo, animal or just cool carved pattern designs that will look cool when lit up (drill holes all over it).
Once you chose the design, you want to sketch it onto your pumpkin. Make sure you know exactly what will be removed and what stays to achieve your desired look- color it in if that helps. One technique we did this year was “scraping”. (see the big teeth on the big pumpkin above) For this technique, you are just scraping away the skin and then shaping the rind of the pumpkin. If you are doing any big scraped parts, do the scraping before carving through, so that you can apply a lot of pressure without breaking off a part.
A big hole needs to be carved to clean out the pumpkin. Traditionally, it is a circle on the top around the stem but you can veer from that. Do it in any shape and in any location to suit your design. Think about where it will be displayed and what will make it stand up more easily. Pop off the top and clean out the guts. Scrape the inside so it is smooth and get past the really wet stuff otherwise it will mold faster inside.
Now carve away! Fixing mistakes…if you accidentally remove a chunk by accident, you can reaffix it with a couple of toothpicks. Have fun :)