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Pumpkin Madness

Tips for carving the perfect Halloween pumpkin from the Jack O'Lantern professionals at Blaze

Now that there’s a touch of autumn in the air, pumpkins begin to infiltrate the home, and not just the influx of pumpkin spice into everything. Naturally, this also means that many of us will find ourselves faced with the challenge of carving this year’s perfect pumpkin. So for some tips, we went to the experts in the field, the pumpkin carvers at The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, the annual pumpkin extravaganza held up in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Historic Hudson Valley’s Rob Schweitzer gave us some advice.

First off, how do you manage to carve all of the thousands of pumpkins you have on display at Blaze? 

We have a small team of dedicated and passionate pumpkin artists, assisted by a team who scoop and prep the pumpkins for carving. Pumpkins are replaced on a weekly basis, or sooner if they are showing signs of decay. 

Do you have to constantly rotate out pumpkins as they show signs of age?

Yes, we evaluate the state of the pumpkins before each Blaze night. We replace any pumpkin that shows signs of dehydration, shriveling, or being chomped by critters so Blaze stays fresh every night.

What are the things to look for when choosing a good pumpkin to carve?

First, pick a pumpkin that is without bruises, is evenly colored, and isn’t moldy or rotten. Once you have your pumpkin, check the bottom for rot and tap gently to hear a firm, hollow sound. The lighter the pumpkin’s skin, the softer the pumpkin will be, making it easier to carve. However, be aware that lighter-skinned pumpkins may not last as long post-carving. Choose a pumpkin with a smooth, flat face, with few shallow ridges. Always remember, never carry your pumpkin by the stem!

What advice do you have for people who carve their own pumpkins?

After you pick the perfect pumpkin using our tips above, you’ll want to prep your pumpkin. Start by washing and drying the pumpkin, and then cut a hole in the bottom to scoop out the guts. Scrape the inside flesh clean and smooth until it’s approximately one-inch thick. Transfer your pattern onto the chosen side or draw your pattern directly onto the pumpkin. Then you can start carving your pumpkin using the carve-out method which is the traditional method of pumpkin carving. Holding your cutting tool perpendicular to the surface, start cutting with gentle sawing motions in the middle and work your way out. To keep your pumpkin structurally sound, leave the large areas to cut out for last, and cut them into smaller pieces for easier removal. If you’re working on corners or if you’re changing directions, remove the carving tool then reinsert it in the new direction. If there are any pieces that are difficult to remove, try to push them out towards you from the inside instead of poking them. To fine-tune your design, put a candle in the pumpkin, turn out the lights and make the final adjustments. Once you finish the carving, wash the pumpkin under cold water and cut a vent or chimney in the back top of the pumpkin. Then display it for everyone to see! 

What’s the secret to keeping pumpkins fresh after you’ve carved them? 

In order to prevent shriveling or dehydration, some people like to coat all the cut areas with petroleum jelly or commercially available pumpkin preservatives and keep the pumpkin wrapped in plastic in a cool location when it’s not on display. 

How do you keep animals from eating them once you put them outside?

One of the best ways we have found to deter animals from ruining your pumpkin creation is to spray the pumpkins with commercially available hinders, garlic spray, or hot pepper. If you get a haircut, keep the clippings because sprinkling the area with human hair also helps!