How to Carve a Pumpkin, According to the Jack O’Lantern Blaze Pros

Photo by Historic Hudson Valley

The experts from the Hudson Valley’s iconic, annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson teach us their tips and tricks.

There’s nothing subtle about Halloween — including pumpkin culture. Leave your half-hearted carving attempts behind and turn to the local experts at Croton-on-Hudson’s The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze. This pumpkin palooza at Van Cortlandt Manor has wowed visitors with its incredible designs since 2005. Armor up with an ice cream scooper and patience: it’s time to make a pumpkin masterpiece (and secure your front porch as the best on the block).

We’re at the pumpkin patch: What should we look for?

Find a pumpkin that has a sturdy stem, a flat bottom, and no bruises. You’ll also want to make sure it’s heavy — if it’s too light, it could be rotten inside. Blaze sources its pumpkins from Wallkill View Farm in New Paltz.

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Check out Blaze’s 7,000+ pumpkins at Van Cortlandt Manor, open September 17–November 21. Photo by Historic Hudson Valley.
Check out Blaze’s 7,000+ pumpkins at Van Cortlandt Manor, open September 17–November 21. Photo by Historic Hudson Valley.

Do we have to buy tools?

Everything you need is already in your kitchen. A boning knife works well for cutting a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin. An ice cream scooper is perfect for removing the guts.

How do we properly prep a design?

Sketch your design on a sheet of paper and then tape it to your pumpkin. Use a fork or a pencil to poke holes along the lines you’ll be carving.

It’s carving time! Walk us through the steps.

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Wash and dry the pumpkin, and then cut a hole in the bottom — this helps keep the pumpkin structurally sound. (If you cut it from the top, it can cave while decaying.) Scoop out the seeds and scrape the flesh until it’s completely smooth. Then tape your design to your pumpkin and start carving from the middle of your design out, leaving the largest pieces to cut last. Light your pumpkin and then make any final adjustments.

What’s the best lighting technique?

Just place your tea light on the ground, light it (or turn it on, if battery-operated), and then cover it with the pumpkin.

Can we keep a pumpkin fresh all season long?

Yes. While carving, make sure the inside is squeaky clean — it can help prolong the life of the carved pumpkin. After carving, clean it with water and soap or diluted bleach and water to prohibit any mold from growing. You can also use petroleum jelly to coat any openings. If it’s a hot day, store your pumpkin in a cool, dark place or even in the refrigerator. Remember: it’s a piece of fruit!

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