Carve a Great Pumpkin!

Glowing jack-o-lanterns are Halloween's most enduring symbol. Safely carve one, two, or more with your kids this year!

By FamilyTime


Glowing jack-o-lanterns are a favorite Halloween symbol. Whether they glimmer from a front porch or behind a front window, they beckon trick 'r treaters and welcome casual passersby with whimsy and warmth.

Whether you prefer simple carved faces on pumpkins or more elaborate designs, begin with a smooth, blemish-free pumpkin bought from a local market or pumpkin patch.

Choosing the Pumpkin
Look for evenly colored orange pumpkins with attractive stems. Never pick the pumpkins up by the stem - hold them underneath.

For most jack-o-lanterns, choose medium-sized pumpkins with at least one smooth side for the face. Have the design or pattern in mind when you shop, so that you can select rounded or oval pumpkins.

Very large pumpkins are time-consuming to carve, although one big one among the others makes a dramatic statement.

Small pumpkins can be carved into simple grinning or grimacing faces, or left untouched and nestled among the carved jacks.

Tools of the Trade
While ordinary kitchen knives and spoons do an admirable job, investing in a few other tools will make the task easier. Some of the tools should be only be used by adults, while others can be safely used by a child supervised by an adult.

Tools should be sturdy and sharp. If you plan to craft a detailed design, a flexible cutting saw is essential. These are sold in pumpkin carving kits, and many can be safely used by a child supervised by an adult. X-Acto knives and flexible boning knives work, too, but should be used by the adults.

Adult can use ice picks, large nails, and Stylus tools serve as pokers for outlining a stencil design.

Children can safely use a flat ice cream scoop or sturdy metal ladle for scooping out the seeds and pulp.

Preparing the Pumpkin
Trace the design on the largest, smoothest, most shapely side of the pumpkin. Use a pencil, marker or crayon.

If you use a stencil, lay it over the pumpkin and poke a series of tiny holes around the outline of the design. Use the poker tool for this.

Cut the lid without marring the design. Angle the knife inward to form a cone shape and cut a five- or six-sided lid. A round lid with straight sides can fall into the pumpkin.

Clean out the inside of the pumpkin. Take special care with the bottom of the jack-o-lantern so that the candle or flashlight can stand upright. Scrape the side for the face very clean and remove enough flesh so that it's about one inch thick.

Use a sharp boning knife and a paring knife to cut out the design. Make small, careful cuts. Remember not to cut through teeth!

Push the pieces out of the pumpkin with your fingers. Inspect your handiwork and then clean up any imperfections.

Storing the Jacks
Don't carve the pumpkins until a few days before Halloween, particularly if you live in a warm climate.

In most regions, jack-o-lanterns last for only two or three days. If it's cool outside, keep them on the porch. If you have an old refrigerator, put them in it when you aren't displaying them.

Move them out of direct sun during the day. Keep them as cool and shaded as you can.

If they start to shrivel, submerge them in a tub of water and let them soak for an hour or longer to absorb moisture.

Rubbing the cut sections with petroleum jelly helps hold in moisture, too.

Jack-o-lanterns don't last for long, but while they do, magic is in the crisp, fall air!