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How to Carve a Pumpkin 101

Pumpkin seeds (left); D Magazine pumpkin and a bat (right) photography by Kyle Pennington

I’ve never made a jack-o-lantern. In spite of my handicap, my childhood went pretty smoothly. I didn’t murder anyone, and I graduated high school with mostly A’s and B’s. As time passed, however, I did notice a hollowed-out-pumpkin-shaped hole in my heart. It was one that couldn’t be filled with candy corn and miniature Twix bars. I decided to take a shot at making my own. If you’re like me, you need a detailed and well-planned instruction manual for you, to insure success in your own first foray into pumpkin carving. Thus, this guide.

The cat likes pumpkins, too.

Step 1. Buy a pumpkin. Look, you’re the beginner here.

Step 2. Gather your supplies. You’re going to need some newspaper, a knife, a bowl, and a towel. You’re also going to need stuff to do the actual carving. You can stop by any grocery chain and find a pumpkin carving kit, which includes a scooper for pumpkin guts, something I like to call a “pokey thing” for outlining your design, and a tiny baby knife for cutting your design out. Alternatively, you can use a marker and spoon for all of that. Actually… that sounds way easier. A cat is NOT necessary, but it does make the whole process a lot cuter.

Technique is important.

Step 3. Take your big, shiny knife and cut a round hole at the top of the pumpkin. Don’t forget to laugh maniacally or you’ll ruin everything.

Step 4. Once the hole is wide enough to stuff your arm in, stuff your arm in and grab a fat glob of pumpkin guts. It will feel very wet and gross. Don’t be alarmed; this is natural. Take the glob of guts and plop in on the newspaper. Do NOT throw it away! Use the scooper/spoon to scrape the walls clear of innards.

Step 5. Continue this process for approximately 12 hours. Kidding. Seriously, though, this part takes forever. Try not to imagine that you’re reaching into a birth canal of a farm animal.

Separate the pumpkin seeds from the guts as you’re cleaning the pumpkin cavity.

Step 6. When the guts have been piled and the pumpkin is completely free of its drippy insides, sift through the vaguely vomitous orange mass for the pumpkin seeds. These seeds are delicious nourishment and may end up being your only reward if you’re not careful with the next few steps.


Step 7. Take your marker or your pokey thing and outline your design. You can freestyle it or you can use a stencil. Some may regard a stencil as cheating, but anyone that accuses you of cheating at pumpkin carving has more issues than you do.

Step 8. Once that’s done, take your knife and carefully cut along the lines that you’ve marked. This part sucks too because you can really screw up everything you’ve put so much time and effort into. Good luck!

Step 9. Assuming you haven’t completely decimated your design, congratulations. You have yourself a genuine, homemade jack-o-lantern.

Step 10. Clean up your mess and enjoy the fruit of your labor. The fruit of your labor can be enjoyed for about a week before it begins to rot from the inside, crumpling like a deflated parade balloon into a big pile of disappointment.

Look! Pumpkins.

… But look at how pretty it looks!

Finally, take the seeds you saved and spread them on a sprayed cookie sheet. Sprinkle some salt and cinnamon on them and put the sheet in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Done. Delicious. You’re welcome.

Jake Austin Medina is a D Magazine intern and a journalism major at the University of North Texas.

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