Halloween is almost upon us.
Firstly, it's only right and proper that we don't ignore the humble pumpkin, and we'll celebrate its glory with ideas on the best way to carve a pumpkin.
But I can't help thinking there must be other ways to create some ghoulish masterpieces for some Halloween fun in 2012!
Cue Martha Stewart, the American domestic goddess who when I was hunting round for some ideas, gave me some inspiration on turning the simple apple into a creepy looking shrunken apple head!
Shrunken Apple Heads
1. Peel your apples and halve them.
2. Have some lemon juice to hand for those that you're not working on immediately to keep them from browning.
3. Here's where you let your imagination run wild - on the rounded side of the half apple use a knife or a melon baller to create eyes, nose and mouth and make a face in your apple half. The more gruesome and garish the better!
4. Place your apple half on greaseproof paper on a baking try, flat side down with the face showing. 5. Place in the oven at 120 degrees (gas mark 1/2) for approx 2 hours.
Serve in a big bowl of juice/punch for the youngsters or in warm cider or rum punch for the grown ups.
But now to that pumpkin.... every year I buy one and every year it seems to defeat me when it comes to carving it.
Again, I turned to Martha Stewart, who has come to the rescue with her suggestions (after all, the Americans have been doing the whole Halloween thing an awful lot longer than we have!)
Cut a Hole in the Pumpkin
The first step is hollowing out the pumpkin. Use a keyhole saw to cut the hole. If you'll be using a candle for illumination, you can cut the hole in the pumpkin's top (always put the candle in a high-sided glass, and never leave unattended). For electric lights, make the hole in the bottom or side so you can hide the cord.
Scoop Out the Flesh
Scoop out flesh, pulp, and seeds with a plaster scraper or fleshing tool.
Transfer Your Design
Now it's time to transfer your selected designs (a good opportunity to let the children run wild with their designs!). Affix it to the pumpkin, and trace the design by poking holes with a sharp awl, needle tool, or T-pin. (And don't let the seeds go to waste - bake them in the oven to dry them out - they're delicious!)
Carve the Features
Remove the template and carve along the pattern with a miniature saw or linoleum carving tool. If you want to make holes in the pumpkin for eyes, use a drill equipped with a 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch spade bit.
You can also get creative with patterns and designs using these pumpkin-carving tools. If desired, place candles, small flashlights, or battery-operated light sources inside your pumpkin.
Tip: Prevent exposed areas of the pumpkin's flesh from turning brown by applying a film of Vaseline.
How to Light a Pumpkin
To light a carved pumpkin, string lights are preferable to candles for most designs:
Wrap a strand of 20 lights around a glass jar, and secure wires with tape.
Cut a hole in the hollowed-out pumpkin for the cord, and place jar inside.
Unplug lights before leaving the house or going to sleep.
If using a candle, place it in a glass or votive holder, and cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin for ventilation (or leave the top off).
Battery-operated candles are another good alternative.
And voila! The perfect pumpkin! Good luck with creating your Halloween masterpiece!