This Saturday, Tina and I decided to make Jack O'Lanterns. The practice of carving Jack O'Lanterns dates back hundreds of years and is based on a colorful Irish tale. In America, we carve Jack O'Lanterns from pumpkins and put them out at Halloween as part of the fun festivities. Jack O'Lanterns can be traditional or complicated. Tina decided to carve a simple but geeky one, while I tried my hand at surface carving with shadings.
The history of the Jack O'Lantern starts at the Irish legend of Stingy Jack who played tricks on and stole from everyone he ever knew including, once, the devil himself. One such story, for there were many different ones, goes that Jack tricked the devil to climb a tree and then surrounded the tree with crosses. The devil, being unable to climb down, struck a deal with Jack. Jack made him promise that he would never enter hell, and the devil agreed. Jack removed the crosses and continued on with his life. When Jack finally died, he was denied entry into heaven because he was too mean to everyone while he was alive. So, down to the gates of hell he was sent, but the devil would not let him enter! Jack didn't know what to do, because he was surrounded by darkness and couldn't find his way around in the land between heaven and hell, so he asked the devil for help. The devil threw him an ember from the fires of hell. Jack took the ember and placed it in a hollowed out turnip and wandered the earth from that time forth carrying his light in a turnip.
Jack O'Lanterns were carved out of gourds, turnips, potatoes and a variety of other vegetables and lit with a candle to keep Stingy Jack (and evil spirits) away from Irish households. When Irish immigrants came to the United States in the 1800's, they brought the practice with them and began using pumpkins because they were bigger and easier to carve.
This was Tina's first time carving a pumpkin, but she wanted to do something fun (not the common scary face) and ended up deciding on this emoticon: :-P [IMG]
I looked through a bunch of my photos of Yosemite Valley and drew up a plan in Adobe Illustrator to make a relief, light shaded carving of a slightly exaggerated drawing of the valley. Here's a link to a similar view from Inspiration Point off the yosemite.com website (for those who haven't visited this magnificent park). [IMG]
Here's a closeup of the landscape in the dark: [IMG]
Good jobs on the pumpkin carving! I liked Tina's emoticon, but yours was an interesting piece of art...
And did you roast and salt the pumpkin seeds inside the 2 pumpkins? Jack o'lantern pumpkins don't usually have good pulp for cooking, but that hasn't stopped me from trying in the past with variable results.
An interesting post. I'm from Australia, but in Seattle at the moment, and I must admit I've been walking past the mound of pumkins out the front of QFC wondering if they're edible, or just for carving.
Do people generally just throw away the contents of the pumpkin, or do they make a soup or something?
Very nice ideas. I have a few questions on the process though. How far does one scoop the flesh? Leave about an inch all around? Also, do you need to somehow ensure the pumpkin does not 'go bad' so to speak? After a day I suppose it will start sagging and become soft. Any way to prevent this?
To the anonymous Australian, I can't speak for all but when I was a kid the ritual was always done in the evening after it was dark. It usually went like this:
1. Newspaper all over the floor, usually five sheets thick (we got messy)
2. Set out the pumpkins, carving knives (cheap, dull "knives" specifically for carving), and the biggest bowl in the kitchen
4. All the goop with seeds in it goes in the bowl. After or during the carving, Dad would separate the seeds from the goop, rinse them off, spread them out on cookie sheets, salt them, and stick them in the oven until they were golden.
5. Get sick on pumpkin seeds before bed. They're the best right out of the oven, when they're almost too hot to touch. Nice and crispy. Don't ever buy pumpkin seeds in a bag, they're awful.
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1631 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 11:01 pm Post subject:
re: culinary uses of the pumpkin
Generally, the large pumpkins that Americans use for carving aren't used in cooking. It can be done, but typically other sweet varieties are used to make traditional dishes like pumpkin pie. I've been planning to bake a pumpkin pie, but I've been debating whether or not to start with canned pumpkin (what more people will start with) or with fresh pumpkins. I think it will end up depending on how much time I have.
Some of you may find this interesting. It's the "Pumpkin house of horrors" as created by former LucasArts writer/designer person Dave Grossman (who worked on Day of the Tentacle oa dnt he first two Monkey Island games, among others). Very neat (but twisted) carvings
My family always uses our pumpkins after Halloween. We cut them in half and bake them in the oven like any other squash. Then we scrape out the pulp and use it for cooking, and freeze any left over. It tastes just as good (actually better) than canned pumpkin. And we don't have a problem with wilting or anything, we just leave the pumpkins outside in the cold until we're ready to use them.