We are planning a pumpkin-carving party for our boys’ birthday party this year. Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin innards, kids with knives, what could possibly go wrong? I’m hoping if I plan the heck out of this party everyone’s digits will remain unscathed and our house won’t smell like the inside of a gourd.
First up, the pumpkins! Not all pumpkins are created equal. Some are great for cooking (sugar pumpkins), some are great for decorating (Cinderella, white and blue pumpkins). But when it comes to carving pumpkins you want a pumpkin that has a thinner rind making it easier to saw into. We contacted Eagle Acres Dairy, in Fort Langley, and they recommended their Zeus or Fieldtrip pumpkins for carving ease. Also, carving pumpkins tend to have fewer, less goopy, insides which is a big win in my books. Just like every other fruit and vegetable, there are tips for selecting the best pumpkin:
- Listen – pick up the pumpkin and tap it. You should hear a hollow sound.
- Look – consistent colouring on the pumpkin matters, as does an absence of scratches, bruises or dark spots. Don’t forget to put your pumpkin on the ground to see if it stands up. We’ve all experienced trying to carve a rolling pumpkin – not fun!
- Feel – push on the bottom of your pumpkin, if you feel any give look for a different gourd. A non-sturdy bottom means the pumpkin isn’t fresh and may soon begin to rot.
When considering carving tools look at the skill level of your guests. If littles are attending, why not make it a pumpkin-DECORATING party? Skip the sharp tools and go for paint, sparkles, and stick-on decorations. Wrap your pumpkin in toilet paper, add some google-eyes and you’ve got a pumpkin-mummy. With sharpie markers kids can draw faces, spiders, swirls, ghosts, or any other design onto their pumpkin. But if your carving party includes kids over the age of 8 there is going to be carving involved. Set up individual carving kits – tools in glass mason jars look cute – so that everyone has easy access. There’s no way everyone in your life is carving pumpkins on the same night, so ask to borrow some tools. Unless you are hosting an annual carving party, who needs to be the proud owner of dozens of carving tool kits?
And now to the big question: to gut or not to gut? Do you have your home and your sanity (cuz you know there’s going to be whining) and just pre-clean the pumpkins and deal with the innards yourself? Or do you cover the table in butcher’s paper and the floor in old sheets, and tell the kids to roll up their sleeves and get to it? Regardless of which option you select, be sure to save the pumpkin seeds. A great trick – boil the seeds, still attached to the pumpkin membrane, in salt water. The boiling helps separate the seeds from the pumpkin guts. The seeds plump up and start cooking a bit in the boiling water so that once you pop them in the oven, the roasting puts a nice crunch on the seeds.
After all the carving the kids are going to be hungry. You can do pizza. You can do hot dogs. You can do all sorts of kid-friendly food. This year I think we are going to have a Chilli Bar! A huge pot of chilli with tons of – not toppings because these go on the bottom of the chilli – so bottoms? Mini hot dogs, french fries, bags of corn chips, and pasta. Plus the usual toppings of cheese, sour cream, and green onions. I figure we’ve embraced the mess with the pumpkins, how much worse can chilli get.
Do you have kids with birthdays close to a major holiday? Do you incorporate the holiday theme into their celebration? Let us know in the comment section below.