Aside from coming up with a great costume (Honey Boo Boo or pregnant Snooki?), carving the perfect pumpkin is one of the top priorities every October. Though you can’t go wrong with the standard triangle eyes and toothy grin, follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to having the best pumpkin on the block.
Selecting your canvas: Go to the pumpkin farm as soon as possible for the best selection; the pumpkins won’t go bad before Halloween as long as you don’t carve them right away. Look for one that’s uniform on all sides; some people prefer pumpkins that are the shape of basketballs, while others like theirs tall and oval-shaped for a bigger, flatter carving surface.
Cutting and gutting: About a week before Halloween, it’s time to dig in. Use a big knife and cut out the top in a hexagon or octagon shape so it’s easy to put the lid back on when you’re done. Then, use a big spoon or garden trowel to scoop out all the seeds and gunk from the inside; this can be tedious, but the more guts you can get out, the better your finished product will look. Optional: Bake the pumpkin seeds while you work and season them however you’d like (salt, garlic powder or Cajun seasoning) for a tasty reward at the end.
Carving: If you’re really artsy, you can create your own template on a piece of printer paper. Spell out Happy Halloween in block letters, draw a few bats or ghosts, or go all out with a haunted house or witch on a broomstick. If this sounds daunting, there are lots of premade templates available for free–or at a low price–online on sites such as www.zombiepumpkins.com or from the Queen of decorating herself, Martha Stewart. For a few dollars at your local grocery or big box store you can purchase pumpkin carving kits that come with templates as well as carving supplies, which tend to work better than your kitchen utensils. Tape your template to your pumpkin and poke holes all the way around your design, just piercing the skin. Then, remove the template and cut along the pattern you just created.
Finishing touches: If your pumpkin is a zombie face, use some red paint or marker to add some blood and gashes. You can also add hair with yarn or ribbon, or attach some cauliflower as ears. When your work of art is complete, you’ll need a light source in the middle. Standard tea candles work fine, as do the battery-powered kind, or even a short strand of white Christmas lights.
Set your finished product in the window or on the porch, and don’t forget to take a picture before the teenagers across the street get their hands on it!