Tips For Carving And Preserving
Your Halloween Pumpkin
The leaves are falling, the air is chilly, and it's time to put away your shorts and flip-flops; that means Halloween is on its way! While you're coming up with clever costume ideas for a big night of trick-or-treating, you also can start your outdoor Halloween decor. Pumpkin carving ranks at the top of the list of fun holiday traditions, so make sure you do it right! Here are a few pumpkin-carving tips for an easy and long-lasting jack-o-lantern.
Picking Out Your Pumpkin
When you pick out your pumpkin, use the same criteria you would with apples: make sure there are no bruises, cuts or scrapes, because any kind of blemish speeds up the rotting process. As for the shape, it depends on how traditional you want it to be. If you want to light it up, make sure the bottom is flat enough that it can stand upright.
Temperature is very important when it comes to carving a pumpkin that stays scary through Halloween. For warmer climates, you may want to hold out as long as possible before you carve. The temperature outside should be somewhere between 35°F about 60°F so they don't start to wrinkle and soften before the big day. Sunlight can also contribute to rot, so make sure to keep them in the shade during the day or bring them inside if you live in a sunny climate.
If you go big with your pumpkins, you may want to try power tools to cut through them. Jigsaws, oscillating tools, and Dremel tools cut through the flesh of pumpkins quickly and easily. If you're not comfortable with power tools, a serrated knife (like a steak knife) or a boning knife (they're extra strong) can be used for cutting out the tops or bottoms of pumpkins. For features, the boning knife is good because it has a smooth blade. If you're planning details, a paring knife can be used for intricate designs. For scooping out the pulp, try using a metal serving spoon with a relatively sharp edge so you can scrape the inside. For smaller pumpkins, try using a butter curler to get the pulp out.
For carving intricate designs, all you have to do is print out your image or stencil and tape it onto your pumpkin. "Trace" the stencil onto your pumpkin by poking tiny holes along the lines using a safety pin, sewing needle or paring knife. When all the holes are in, remove the stencil, and carve along the dots. If you want to keep it simple, use a washable marker to draw on the eyes, nose and mouth. Carve along the lines and then wipe away any marker left behind.
If you're using real candles, you may want to cut out the bottom rather than the top to scoop out the pulp. This way you can set the candle on a flat, steady surface like your porch or an entry bench and place your pumpkin over it. If you want to reduce the risk of setting fires, LED candles are a great alternative to traditional ones, and you can cut the top to make a traditional lid so you can turn the light on and off easily.
Pumpkins are like flowers. They're plants, and they still need water to stay fresh. Spritzing them with water on the outside and the inside can keep them hydrated enough to keep them from wrinkling. If you want to go the extra mile, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach for every cup of water you use to spray the pumpkin to keep mold from forming. If you want your pumpkin to last extra long, a coating of shellac will slow down the decomposition. With the shellac, your pumpkin can last weeks or even months.