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Pumpkin carving is an old Halloween tradition that originated in 19th century Ireland, although back then they used large turnips and potatoes to carve Jack-o’-lanterns.
If you want to celebrate Halloween this year (with a pumpkin obviously) we’re here to help.
Find out our tips on how to carve your pumpkin, the cheapest place to buy them this year and also how you can make sure not to waste any of your pumpkin leftovers.
How to carve a Jack-o’-lantern
What do you need: a pumpkin, a marker pen, a sharp knife, a large spoon or ice cream scoop and a large bowl.
1) Design the face
The great thing about pumpkin carving is you don’t have to be good at drawing to make a unique and personalised lantern.
One eye can be bigger than the other or the mouth can be lopsided. These elements all end up adding to the character of your Jack-o’-lantern.
We’ve previously tried out pumpkin carving kits, which come with stencils to create the face of the Jack-o’-lantern, but we’d encourage giving it a go yourself and using a marker pen and paper to draw your own stencil.
Or you can print pumpkin carving stencils from the internet if you want a simple design to try with children.
Find the best cheap printers to buy and run.
2) Choose the best knife
You’ll need a kitchen knife to carve your pumpkin and it’s important to make sure the knife has a strong and sharp blade.
A knife with a serrated edge is ideal. Good options are a steak knife or a smaller bread knife.
Non serrated knives, for example a paring, utility or small (around 12cm blade) chef’s knife, will also work.
3) Cut the lid carefully
Before you start carving, draw a circle with a marker pen or mark a line around the top of your pumpkin gently with a knife.
Then with your chosen knife cut around the circle at a slight inward angle towards the stem in order to make the lid.
Do not cut vertically down. You need to angle the point of the knife towards the centre of the circle to ensure the lid has a bowl-shaped indentation to prevent it from falling inside.
4) Gut the pumpkin
When you pull out the lid for the first time you’ll find a tangle of orange pulp and seeds hanging off the end.
Slice this off with your knife and put it in a large bowl.
Then with a spoon or ice cream scoop, slowly and carefully dig out all the pulp and seeds until you have a hollow shell of a pumpkin.
Put all the seeds, pulp and other scrapings in a clean bowl and save it for later.
5) Carve out your design
Taking your time and with a gentle back and forth slicing motion, cut into the pumpkin following the lines of the face you’ve drawn.
Make sure you cut away from yourself. Never pull the knife up towards you through the pumpkin.
Maintain an even downward pressure as you carefully draw the knife back and forth around the shapes.
Once complete, your pumpkin is ready to light.
6) Light the lantern
While traditionally, Jack-o’-lanterns have been lit with a candle or a tea light, we suggest using a battery-powered LED candle or tea light for safety if using the lantern inside.
This would prevent any unattended Jack-o’-lanterns from becoming a fire hazard.
You can also use the directional light of a head torch placed inside the lantern to make a projection of the horrifying pumpkin face on a feature wall.
If you like this idea take a look at the best head torches that get our recommendation.
Where can you buy a pumpkin this year?
Every major supermarket will be selling pumpkins in October.
Of course, depending on where you live, it may also be worth checking any local farmer’s markets or farm shops, especially if you want something more locally-sourced.
Prices at farmers markets and farm shops will vary, but at most supermarkets they cost £3 or less:
- ASDA large carving pumpkin £2
- Morrisons medium pumpkin £1
- Ocado large carving pumpkin £2
- Sainsbury’s carving pumpkin £1.50
- Tesco large pumpkin £1.50
- Waitrose large carving pumpkin £3
Not sure where to buy your pumpkin from? Find out which are the best and worst supermarkets.
Tips to use up leftover pumpkin
Depending on the size of the pumpkin you went for, you could now have a lot of strands, pulp and seeds left.
Waste not, want not, we say.
Here are some family recipes to help you make use and enjoy your pumpkin scraps.
Toasted pumpkin seeds
To make some delicious and nutritious seasonal treats, start by washing your pumpkin seeds, then leave them to dry at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 190°C (gas mark 5, 375°F).
- In a small bowl combine the seeds (about 100g) with garlic powder (half a teaspoon), salt (half a teaspoon), cayenne powder (a quarter of a teaspoon) and olive oil (one tablespoon).
- Spread the spicy seed mix evenly on a baking sheet and bake until toasted and slightly browned. This should take between 15 to 20 minutes.
Slow-cooked pumpkin soup
If you have carved yourself a little army of jack’-o’-lanterns you may have enough scraps to make yourself some heart-warming pumpkin soup.
For this recipe, you need 1kg of diced pumpkin chunks. If you don’t have enough you can bulk it up with butternut squash.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 red or brown onions, finely chopped
- 1kg of pumpkin (or pumpkin and squash mixed)
- 700ml of vegetable stock
- 150ml of double cream
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion and pumpkin (and squash if included) for around five minutes. You want it to begin to soften slightly.
- Turn on your slow cooker to the medium setting.
- Transfer the contents of the saucepan to your slow cooker and add the stock and cream. Leave for six hours, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin and/or squash chunks are tender.
- Using a blender, mix the soup until smooth.
Other delicious things you can make with pumpkins include pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin and ginger jam.
All are worth trying if you find yourself with some leftover pumpkin this Halloween.
Find out more ways to use up your pumpkin to stop it going to waste.