Grocer X: Pumpkin slaughtering

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‘Tis the season to grab the kids, disembowel a pumpkin or two, and adorn your front doorstep with carcasses affectionately known as Jack O’ Lanterns. It’s a time of fantasizing about the perfectly carved pumpkin drawing oohs and aahs from the fleets of trick-or-treaters, though the final product never bears resemblance to the initial design.

Once the top comes off ol’ Jack the soon-to-be Lantern, precision falls by the wayside as you hack, chunk, scrap, and saw your way through the orange flesh and smear the stringy, viscous entrails of pulp and seeds across your kitchen table. The monstrosity of your efforts sports a nasal cavity opening into its crooked, triangle-square eyes, a haphazard mouth, and somehow the top doesn’t fit anymore. Not really what you had in mind going into it. I can tell when I see you on your second and third trip to the store’s pumpkin patch, no longer enjoying the festive endeavor.

Pumpkin carving doesn’t have to be act of heinous dismemberment leaving your kitchen reminiscent of a violent crime scene. Like a surgeon with a scalpel, you too can have the confidence, if not the steady hand, to create post-op pumpkin wonders that’ll have the neighborhood kids thinking little about that box of raisins you’ll drop in their candy bag.

Don’t be the sucker who thinks the miniature saws, pokers and scoopers prepackaged with the design books will get you anywhere, you need real, more professional butchering tools.

Sever the top of the pumpkin with a serrated steak knife and get your hands into the guts — it’s no fun if you don’t get a little messy. Once you’re ready to scrape the insides of the rind, a big, metal kitchen spoon was made for the job. It’ll make quick work of guts and gore.

Box cutters should be your go-to slicing appendage. (Micro-saws, really?) Depending on the size of the blade, they probably won’t be able to get all the way through the skin in one slice but that’s a good thing. (Put the pumpkin through a little more pain.) Use some toothpicks to poke holes along the lines of your design on the pumpkin and “connect the dots” with the box cutter. The result is an idiot-proof stencil of your original design, ready for your final cut with a pairing knife. As enticing as it may be, you don’t need a slasher-style machete blade to get the job done.

Preserving your work is a must, now that you’ve butchered yourself a damn-fine Jack O’ Lantern, but chances are that once again, you carved your pumpkin two weeks before Halloween and aren’t sure if it’ll make it to show time. Myscienceproject.org has an answer for pumpkin preservation: bleach. Soaking your carved pumpkin in a mixture of bleach and water, and subsequently spraying it with the same mixture daily, will keep your pumpkin from decaying for a while according to this (indoor) experiment.

I keep my pumpkins outside, and if you’ve ever experienced a Colorado Halloween — the kind that call for winter coats to be a part of every costume — you know the weather isn’t always on your side. I’m carving my pumpkin a few days before the trick-or-treaters do, so I say wait another week before you get yourself some grown-up tools, pick your victim(s), and get the carving party started.

Put a fresh, good lookin’ carcass on display, for the kids.

— Thanks for shopping with us.

The man behind the apron is Craig Lemley, digital content coordinator here at the Indy. The Colorado Springs native spent nearly a decade working in grocery stores across the Pikes Peak region before retiring his produce knife for a surprisingly less-stressful media career. Follow him on twitter (@_CraigLemley) or send questions/comments to clemley@csindy.com.

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