In addition to candy corn and scary stories, one essential ingredient to a fantastic fall and an even better Halloween is carving pumpkins.
While it’s a great activity for the entire family, sculpting the squash has become something of an art form, with artists creating bona fide masterpieces out of pumpkins.
Shane Cooprider, The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island’s garde manager chef, is keen on the art himself and has shared tips on how to achieve pumpkin greatness at home this Halloween when carving with your family.
• All pumpkins are not created equal. When it comes to selection, consider texture as well as shape. Traditional jack-o’-lanterns look best with deep ribs and a round shape, while tall pumpkins help add character and personality. If you are drawing or painting directly on the pumpkin, try to find one with smoother sides to showcase your design.
• Planning your design. Use a grease pencil or marker to outline your design and wipe away any mistakes. Look online for ideas and stencils. Many templates are free of charge and easy to transfer onto a pumpkin.
• Creative carving tools.When you are ready to carve, try a mix of tools. A knife is great for big cuts, but detail work requires finesse. Try push pins, paperclips, tweezers, or even knitting needles for precision.
• Getting to the guts. Here’s the fun part — scooping out the pulp! But where to hide the access hole? Many carvers cut a lid, but the hole can be placed anywhere, top or bottom. Think about display and whether you will use a light. Just be sure to keep the hole out of sight. Making a pie or collecting seeds? Remember to first have your bowls or containers ready.
• Light your pumpkin. Candles are traditional, but holiday lights add a colorful twist. Mix the size of the bulbs or have them blink — just be sure the plug stays dry.
• Is that pumpkin pie I smell? Sprinkle spices on the inside of your pumpkin to fill the air with the smells of the season. Try cinnamon, allspice, or cardamom.
• Make your pumpkin last longer. After carving, soaking the pumpkin in a mild solution of bleach and water will help slow the growth of mold and keep your pumpkin hydrated.