One of the great traditions we celebrate is the annual pumpkin carving night in the Binkowski home. This marks the 10th year that we’ve carved pumpkins as a family and I want to share a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.
Finding the right pumpkin
One of the greatest misnomers about finding a great pumpkin is that you have to get the State Fair, blue ribbon winning, fill up the back of the SUV freak show pumpkin. For some, it’s all about finding the biggest pumpkin they can. Here are a few problems with that logic: 1. It’ll cost you an arm and a leg, 2. It will rot after a few weeks, and 3. Someone has to carry it to the checkout and load it into the car. My advice is to find pumpkins that suit your style and size. We let our kids pick their own pumpkins and they typically will find pumpkins that range in height from a foot to a foot and a half, which is perfect for sitting on the porch.
The other scam is thinking that you have to go to a pumpkin patch to find your perfect pumpkin. This may’ve been great when the pumpkin business wasn’t a total rip off and there were tons of farmers, but nowadays the place is jam packed and because most of the farmer have sold their land to developers. Plus, you can easily drop fifty bucks for a few pumpkins at the patch because they’re selling the “experience”. Side note, we went “apple picking” and it was $25 a bag. For apples. As the guys on NFL Sunday Countdown say, “C’mon, man”. We got out pumpkins at ShopRite this year for five bucks apiece. That’s more like it.The tools
Every man worth his salt knows that the right tools are necessary to get the job done. In recent years the Pumpkin Outfitters Organization and Halloween Essentials And Decorating Society have tried to pass off cheap, safe, plastic toys as “utensils” for carving your pumpkins. Don’t buy ’em. Sure, they’re OK for the kids to mess around with, but you’ll get a better cut from the KFC spork than you will with these flimsy plastic things. A real Dad busts out the knives; I recommend one smaller knife for details and a larger knife for big cuts.
Carving the lid out of the top of the pumpkin is a pretty simple task. I use the smaller knife because it allows you to cut a circle, as opposed to the geometric, obtuse squarish piece of dada art you’ll end up with if you use a knife that’s too large. It’s key to make sure your pumpkin’s lid is cut on a slight angle in order to ensure it doesn’t drop into the pumpkin.
Once the lid has been cut, use the larger knife to slice off all of the guts and seeds — this way you’ll have a nice, flat surface to work with and set down.
By far one of the kids favorite parts of pumpkin carving night is digging out all of the guts from the pumpkin. They’ll typically describe how gross it feels before adopting a workman-like attitude to scrape out every single last seed. The fundamental problem is that unless they have long fingernails it takes forever and becomes a chore. Here’s your secret weapon: A large metal spoon. Grab the spoon at the bowl end of it and use the long side to scrape the pumpkin clean. It’ll take you all of two minutes to have it cleaned out and it makes clean up a hell of a lot easier when you can turn the pumpkin upside-down and drop the guts into the garbage straight out of the pumpkin.
Those are my tips for getting your pumpkin prepped for carving. Share your tips in the comments below. Part two will cover pumpkin carving and designs – you won’t want to miss it!