Wednesday, 27 October 2010

My Hallowe'en Pumpkin

Hallowe'en has it's origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain, meaning "summer's end":

The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. ~Wiki

As far as I can make out, the old Celtic festival seems to have merged into the Christian calendar, in which departed souls are commemorated on All Saints Day, also known as All Souls Day, Day of the Dead and All Hallows Day.

The name, Hallowe'en (now often shortened further to Halloween) is an old Scottish abbreviation for All Hallows Evening, the night before All Hallows Day.

Another tradition that has become associated with Hallowe'en is that of carving pumpkins.

My very first pumpkin

How did this come about?

A common practice for All Souls Day (Day of the Dead) was to commemorate souls in purgatory with candle lanterns carved from turnips.

In North America, pumpkins are more readily available and larger, making them much easier to carve than turnips. Pumpkin carving became an American tradition more than 150 years ago. Although carving jack-o'-lanterns was originally associated more generally with the harvest period, it became more specifically identified with Hallowe'en in the mid-to-late 19th century

Personally, I really like the growing popularity here in the UK for hand-carved candle-lit pumpkins featuring grinning or grimacing faces, witches, broomsticks and cats, skulls, owls, spiders and cobwebs and all manner of other spooky motifs carefully chosen, applied and carved into the beautiful orange squashes.

But… I have never carved a pumpkin before.

Nope. Never!

I once watched in admiration as American university hall mates carved a friendly jack-o'-lantern for our shared kitchen (and stopped them throwing away the seeds with a horrified squeal – washing, salting and roasting them instead). That was nearly 2 decades ago!

So, when Waitrose invited me to take part in a pumpkin carving contest, offering to send me pumpkin, instructions and carving kit, I knew it was time to have a go for myself.


In my box was a large, lovely pumpkin. An instruction book included some helpful instructions plus some, way-too-complex-looking templates and a little set of specialist tools.


Step 1: I can haz pumpkin. I named him Pob.


Step 2: Cut out the lid – the little handle makes it easier to position the lid back in place.


Step 3: Scoop out the string, seeds and excess flesh.

Step 4: Print template, cut roughly around pattern, soak paper quickly, slap wet paper template onto pumpkin and use clever little roller tool to mark pattern into pumpkin skin.

PumpkinCarving-4432 PumpkinCarving-4433

Step 4: Use drill to create starter holes in which to insert saw.

PumpkinCarving-4436 PumpkinCarving-4437

Step 5: Saw out pattern. Carefully!

Step 5: Crow delightedly.


Step 6: Pop candle inside pumpkin, try to light candle with short matches, swear, try again a few times, swear again a few times, tape match to blunt knife handle, light elongated match, light candle and crow some more.

Step 7: Note where candle flame makes sooty mark on underside of lid, remove lid and create tiny chimney hole using drilling tool.

Step 8: Replace lid, stand back and admire.

Kavey Eats Tombstone Pumpkin Template 2010

I must confess that my original design included, the letters RIP on the gravestone below a much smaller cross. However, when I began transferring my pattern to the pumpkin I panicked at the idea of carving such detail and went for the larger cross instead.

In actual fact, I found the two saws included in the pumpkin carving kit tool set properly sharp and really easy to use and I don't think I would have had any problems with the RIP lettering.

If you'd like to use my template, please go ahead. All I ask is that you post a comment below with a link to a picture of your results!

The Pumpkin Carving Kit from Waitrose is priced at £6.99 (though it's currently reduced in my local branch and on Waitrose Direct).

Have you carved a pumpkin before? How did it turn out? What do you think of my results?


Heavenly Housewife said...

Wow, it looks amazing Kavey!
*kisses* HH

meemalee said...

Man, that's morbid. Good skillz though.

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said...

Great carving. I agree it is far far easier than I thought it would be. Love the little mini saws.

All Saints'and All Souls' are actually not the same, although they are closely associated. All Souls' falls the day after All Saints' on the 2nd Nov.

I really should make some Soul Cakes this year, which I only learnt about last year.

Mamta said...

Vow Kav, you have not lost you artistic touch! It is really well carved.

Kavey said...

HH, thanks!

Meems, morbid? It's All Hallows/ Day of the DEAD, woman! ;)

Helen, yes the saws were really very good, much better than I expected and I loved the little pattern transfer roller as well. Very easy to use. Thanks re All Souls/ All Saints. Which one IS / Isn't same as Day of Dead?

Ma, ta! :)

Gail said...

Super cute! I've only done it one and with a smaller pumpkin. Which resulted in the tea light cooking the lid, effectively...

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

nice work my friend... The Big V and I will have our traditional carving competition on Sunday... can't wait!

Foodycat said...

Wonderful! I bought one of those carving kits from Waitrose last year, and carved my first pumpkin. I was so happy with how it turned out! I haven't planned to do one this year though.

Kavey said...

Gail, the suggestion was to make a hole in the lid to let the smoke/ soot out... may have worked for smaller pumpkin!

Dom, hope you'll share some photos of your results?!

Foodycat, I love your cat and moon! And leaving the stringy interior in the pumpkin actually makes it look amazing, like a grotto!!!

Mzungu said...

Looks pretty damn good to me .....

The kitchen princess diaries said...

That looks fab. I should nip down the road to the farm as they have pumpkins out, only £1 each! My effort will be more rustic though I am sure.

Kavey said...

Thanks Mzungu!

KP, I thought I'd best steer clear of more complex designs but now confident to try something more interesting next time!

Anonymous said...

It's ever so slightly occult looking!

May said...

I love the design! Great reminder of what Halloween was all about in the first place. Am not going to carve a pumpkin but am going to get one to make into curry!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Oooh spooky, makes a change from a face! I am a bit freaked out by a pumpkin carving kit including a saw?!

Kavey said...

It's definitely not for kids, I'll have to take a photo of the tools, actually!

kelly4777 said...

I think your pumpkin is very good :)
We always used a layer of foil on the bottom of the lit to prevent burning/scorching.
Never had special pumpkin carving tools, just kitchen knives (and nerves of steel lol).

Kavey said...

THe tools were fab, I must say...
Foil a cunning idea!