Fall is a great time for seasonal activities. There are festivals, plays, parades, and all sorts of other events that only happen once a year. One of my personal favorites is pumpkin carving. It doesn’t really take very long, so you can easily do it in a single evening after work. If you’d rather take your time and enjoy the festive activity with friends, it’s a simple thing to plan a whole afternoon party around it.
This year I choose the former, carving one with my husband after he got back from work. We gathered our ingredients – Kroger usually has a great selection of pumpkins in October, and fun carving sets that you can purchase for around $5. I would HIGHLY recommend making this investment! You may think that you can get by with what you already have in your kitchen, but a real pumpkin carving knife makes carving the pumpkin so much easier than just using kitchen knives. It also makes it a lot more fun. Many kits also come with a “goop scoop”, which makes getting the pulp out infinitely more straightforward (and is also fun to say if you have kids helping you :]).
Cleaning the pumpkin
The first thing you have to do when you carve a pumpkin is to cut a hole in the top and scoop out all the seeds and pulp. Make sure that you carve a hole big enough for your fist to comfortably fit through! We cut our hole just a little too small, which made gutting the pumpkin much more challenging than it should have been. But we also had our goop scoop, which possibly evened the difficulty out a bit – it helped us scrape the inside walls of the pumpkin and make sure that we removed all of the seeds and pulp before we started carving.
Cooking the seeds
Once you’ve gutted your pumpkin, don’t throw the seeds away! Roasted pumpkin seeds are a tasty and easy treat to make, and only take a little extra work if you’ve already pulled them out of a pumpkin that you’re going to carve. The majority of that extra work comes from separating the seeds from the pulp, considered by many a messy and laborious job that should be avoided at all costs. But it doesn’t have to be so onerous. The easiest way to get the seeds out of pumpkin pulp is to put the whole messy blob into a bowl of cold water. The seeds will start trying to float to the top, while the pulp will want to sink, thus making it much easier to separate the two.
Once you have a bowl of clean seeds:
- Simmer them in hot salty water for about 10 minutes.
- The ratio that I like is 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt for every 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds. If you want your seed a bit saltier, then add a little more salt in this step. Be careful not to add too much!
- While the seeds are boiling, preheat the oven to 400º F.
- Coat a roasting pan or baking sheet with olive oil, and once the seeds have finished simmering, take them out, drain them well, and spread them on the oiled pan in a single layer.
- Toss gently to make sure that the olive oil covers all of the seeds.
- Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown. This should take between 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds.
- Pay attention! Pumpkin seeds will burn very quickly, so check them every few minutes to make sure that they aren’t getting too toasty.
Carving the pumpkin
Now, back to your poor neglected innard-less pumpkin. The complexity of the design that you carve is entirely up to you and your level of artistic skill. I free-handed a simple face directly onto the pumpkin shell so that we’d have something to follow when we were cutting. You could also just print out a picture and tape it to the pumpkin and trace along as you’re cutting.
It’s fun to make it just a little more personal by giving it a name once you’ve finished. Especially if you have children at home. We named our creation Gourdie, and he faithfully watched over our house for a full week before he rotted away. Alas, his life was rather short-lived. But it still made for a great evening together, even if the fruits of our labor didn’t last very long.
What’s a fun story you’ve had while pumpkin carving with loved ones?