How to Carve a Jack-o-Lantern & Roast Pumpkin Seeds

I don’t usually share my gringo traditions here but I realize that just as I’m fascinated by and curious about Latin American traditions, maybe there are people from other parts of the world reading this who might be just as fascinated by and curious about the traditions we have here in the United States. As I mentioned before, carving a jack-o-lantern and roasting pumpkin seeds were two of the very first traditions I shared with Carlos, so now I’m going to share it with you. (Besides, roasted pumpkin seeds are popular in parts of Latin America too!)

Directions and step-by-step photos below!

How to Make: Jack-o-Lanterns & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1. Choose a side of your pumpkin to work on. I always choose the side that has the least amount of blemishes or scratches, but if you’re going for a different look, maybe that would add some character. Once you’ve decided which side you like best, use a marker to draw a face. Remember that you’ll be carving these shapes out with a knife, so the more complicated the shapes, (especially round shapes or tiny details), the more difficult it will be. (Note: Don’t carve your pumpkin more than a few days before Halloween or it will start to rot.)

2. Draw a circle at least an inch out from the stem around the top of the pumpkin. Cut along the line at the top and then gently pull the stem to open the pumpkin. Use a knife to cut the gunk and strings hanging off the top so it’s clean and flat.

3. Reach inside the pumpkin and pull out the “guts.” (Most little kids find this disgusting but fun.)

4. The gooey, stringy stuff can be discarded, but separate the seeds out into a bowl as you go. At some point you will need to use a spoon to scrape the inside nice and clean.

5. Use a sharp knife to carefully carve out the face you drew on the outside of the pumpkin. Little kids will need lots of help and should be supervised at all times.

6. Admire what a good job you’ve done. Your jack-o-lantern is finished and ready for the final touch, but first, let’s roast pumpkin seeds.

7. Put the pumpkin seeds in a colander and rinse with water for a couple minutes, using your hands to mix them around. Leave in the colander to drip dry about 20 minutes.

8. Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Spread the pumpkin seeds out on the ungreased baking sheet. Put into the oven at no more than 200 F. Right now we’re not roasting the pumpkin seeds, just drying them out. Check the pumpkin seeds every 10 minutes. They should be dry in 20 – 30 minutes or less. Pumpkin seeds should still be white when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for a couple minutes until they’re safe to handle with your hands.

9. Use your hands to mix the pumpkin seeds around and get them unstuck from the aluminum foil. Dribble a little oil on the seeds, (some people use butter – I spray them generously with cooking spray), and then sprinkle with salt. Mix around with your hands, making sure all seeds are covered in oil and salt. Bake in oven at 350 F until slightly browned. Allow to cool and then serve or store for eating.

10. Back to your jack-o-lantern! On Halloween night, place a lit candle inside your jack-o-lantern (battery operated “candles” are best so you don’t have to worry about a fire hazard), and then put the top back on. Set on your doorstep out of the way of trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween!

Posted on October 27, 2012, in celebration, crafts, Culture, food/drink, holiday, recipes. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I have to say that I really do enjoy reading about the Gringo traditions your family celebrates. I hope you’ll continue to write about them every once and a while. :)

    As for Jack-o-Lanterns, I always thought they were cool and wanted to carve one every year for Halloween. But my Mexican abuelito was of the mindset of “Como vamos a desperdiciar una calabaza, no mas porque si?” We’d still buy pumpkins at the pumpkin patch every year, but they were just used for cooking.

    Now that I’m all grown up and live where pumpkins aren’t always available, I am my grandpa’s nieta! I’d rather eat the calabaza than carve it. And homemade pumpkin seeds are always a hit at our house. :)

    • Thanks Leslie! I feel like we don’t have that many specifically gringo traditions but I will keep my eye out so I can share. Usually we have traditions that are a mix, or I talk about direct differences in similar traditions, like with the nacimientos, (http://latinaish.com/2011/12/21/salvadoran-nacimientos-vs-american-nativities/)

      While we were carving the jack-o-lanterns today, Carlos made a similar comment to yours, about how we were just “wasting” the pumpkins for display, but he really loves doing it. I guess he just can’t help but think about those sorts of things because his mother never would have allowed that sort of “wastefulness” back in El Salvador :)

  2. Ta-DAH!!!!! Thank you :D

  3. Love it! We just carved our pumpkin here in El Salvador last night. I was surprised that many stores sell pumpkins here — and they aren’t THAT expensive. I know we’ll probably live in parts of the world where pumpkins are hard to come by, so it’s nice to take advantage of the tradition while we can.

  4. we put vaseline on all the cut edges of the jack-o-lantern. it helps it keep from rotting so quickly.

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