Halloween 2012 – Pumpkin Carving with Carmen

October 28, 2012 By: erik Category: Offspring, Partying, Photos, USA 471 views

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Jack-o-LanternTonight we did our annual October tradition of pumpkin carving. Unfortunately, the pumpkins we were able to get this year were pretty sad. The shape was okay, but they were small with incredibly thick walls. So small, that the face I carved had to have its features so close together that we had a bit of an accident in which the eye hole broke through to the nose hole. Mistakes happen even to the worst of us pumpkin carvers.

Last year we had a great time inviting our three-floors-down neighbor, Carmen up to participate. She and Nora get along splendidly and the quality of her parents is apparent in her excellent behavior. We invited her up this year as well. She had a friend over visiting, so we invited her as well, but she was too shy to come play with us, so she, rather unfortunately, stayed in Carmen’s house playing with Carmen’s toys while we carved our pumpkin.

Carmen brought some candy with her, “to put in the pumpkin”. I found this misunderstanding quite understandable and funny. So many of the jack-o-lanterns that Spanish children see are from American cartoons, and they’ve all seen the ubiquitous plastic candy basket shaped like a jack-o-lantern that kids carry around to go trick-or-treating. Pretty reasonable that she’d think pumpkins were for holding candy. Very cute.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving 2012

I have such fond, sepia-tinted memories of the tactile sensation of reaching into a freshly opened gourd. I’m glad I can share it with my child.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving 2012

The pumpkin was so small that my hand wouldn’t fit. Luckily we had child labor available!

Halloween Pumpkin Carving 2012

Traffic jam!

Halloween Pumpkin Carving 2012

Real friends help you clean gourd goop off your hands.

Once the pumpkin was emptied and I scraped it out a bit with a spoon, it was time to do the carving. The girls said, “Okay, now what can we do?” I suggested they play with the goop they’d removed from the pumpkin. Oh my, what a mess they made!

Halloween Pumpkin Carving 2012

Nora complained briefly about her hands itching, and I remembered how last year her face had swollen up a bit during pumpkin carving, but she had no further symptoms this year.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving 2012

Caught orange-handed. Off to the bathroom for some scrubbing, young ladies!




Long exposure photography with three and four year olds is not easy. How we have any clear daguerreotypes of children is a mystery to me. The room was completely dark for this shot, and the camera picked up the light from the street lamps outside.


Remind anyone of The Shining?


Happy Halloween, everybody!

  • Hubbers

    Are we voting on this? I reckon the 2010 pumpkin that looks like Erik is the winner.

  • JoshAGrady

    Did you make a pumpkin pie?

    • I never have. Perhaps I need to learn. Got a recipe?

      • JoshAGrady

        I should preface this recipe by commenting that it is
        inspired by and based on that of my aunt, who has spent several decades of her
        adult life in one part of Africa or another. As such, this is a “make do with what you can
        get your hands on” sort of recipe, and not necessarily orientated towards
        people who can just go down to the (American) supermarket and pick up the
        required goods. Feel free to substitute
        one product for another to individual taste, or as circumstances oblige.

        The Crust.

        First, you\’ll want to get the crust taken care of, as it will
        benefit from some time to reflect upon its sins in the fridge. Rushing a piecrust will result in a tough,
        grouch and unpleasant desert experience.
        Remember, pastry is delicate.
        Excessive kneading will lead to excessive chewing later on. If you have a pastry knife, use it! If you don\’t have a pastry knife, you can
        substitute two butter knives with the blades parallel, and drawn in opposite
        directions. (Put your elbows up in the
        air as if you were resting on the edge of a swimming pool, cross the blades in
        the dough mix and move each blade towards an opposing edge of the mixing bowl.)

        Ready to start?
        Good. Put ~3 Tbsp of water in a
        glass and put that in the freezer. While
        there, stash ~0.5 Cp of shortening (“Manteca blanca” is available in just about
        any butcher shop in Spain.) in a different recipient to keep the water company
        in the freezer. Now, go wash your hands,
        get the other ingredients ready and, once the lard has chilled a bit, dump it
        into the bowl with ~1.33 Cp of (sifted) flour
        (Don\’t have a sifter? Put one on
        the list of things (like a pastry knife) to pick up next time you\’re Stateside.)
        and ~0.5 tsp of salt.

        Cut these ingredients together (I usually premix the flour
        and NaCl before adding the lard.) until you have a mix of a crumbly, cornmeal
        texture. Do not over mix! Now dump the icewater into the bowl and
        gently mix into the dough with a fork. As soon as the mixture acquires an homogenous
        texture and is capable of clumping into a ball, you\’re done with the
        crust. Leave it to settle in the fridge
        while you make the filling. (Ideally you\’ll
        have the piecrust pre-chilled for 1-2 hours before cooking.)

        The Filling.

        Since we are
        unable, out here in the hinterlands, to just grab a can of Libby\’s off of the
        shelf, we\’ll use real pumpkin. (Even
        this is negotiable, you can substitute squash, zucchini, etc. and just play
        around with the seasonings.) Depending
        on the size of your pumpkin, you may have to adjust portions up or down a bit,
        but this recipe is based on roughly 2 Cps of cooked pumpkin. (As a reference, we usually carve two Jack o\’
        Lanterns out of pumpkins with an approximate diameter of 15cm. Since pumpkins here seem to be bred for the
        meat, as opposed to the more specifically engineered “carving” pumpkins sold in
        the US, they are usually fairly thick skinned.
        If you need more meat, you can
        either mix in some squash, a bit of pumpkin sold by the slice at the local market,
        or just dump some zucchini in as filler.)
        Dump the veggies, cut into ~3.5-4cm2
        chunks, into a pot of boiling water and cook until they acquire the same
        texture as “mashable” potatoes. Now,
        grab a handkerchief, piece of cheesecloth or similar and glop the cooked
        pumpkin onto that. Wrap the cloth around
        the meat and strain out as much liquid as possible. (I usually use a wooden spoon handle to
        create a tourniquet effect. The dryer
        you manage to leave the meat, the more pleasant the texture of the pie.

        Now, mix
        together ~1Cp of sugar, 1Tbsp of
        flour, 0.5tsp of salt, some ground ginger (gengibre may well be found in a
        Pakistani fruit stand (if they have such things in Cantabria)), cinnamon,
        nutmeg (nuez moscada), and cloves. Once
        mixed together, dump in the pumpkin, about 1.5Tbsp of melted butter, the same
        amount of molasses, honey or golden syrup.
        (I can\’t imagine a North Carolina boy without a jar of molasses in his
        pantry, but that might just be prejudice.
        I\’ve never found the stuff here, if you\’ve got any suggestions, I\’d love
        to hear where you\’ve found it.) Beat
        three eggs and mix them with ~1.75Cp of milk and 2Tbsp of coñac, whiskey or
        other liquor. Dump the liquid stuff into
        the previously mixed dry goods. (I
        usually start with less milk, and then progressively add more until the mixture
        has a liquid, but not runny, texture.
        You\’re looking for a mixture that is less liquid than pancake batter,
        but more than cake. There is
        considerable margin here for experimentation, and will depend, in part on the
        consistency that you feel is “traditional” (in other words, what your mother
        used to make).

        Gently roll the pie crust out (you do have a rolling pin, don\’t
        you?) and put it into a greased, lightly floured, pie pan (I usually just
        remove the handle of the largest frying pan in the kitchen.) Remember, try to roll the dough as little as
        possible. It\’ll get tough fast.

        Prick the dough well on the bottom, and pop it into the
        pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes. Now
        remove the pan, dump the pumpkin mixture into the shell and cook until the
        filling is spongy and the crust is a light golden brown. (If you find that the crust is near being
        done, but the filling needs a bit more time, lower the temperature of the
        oven. My oven has a binary temperature
        setting (i.e. “on” or “off”) rather than the more useful degrees, so I can\’t
        speak to cooking temperatures; I usually start with the pie at about the midpoint
        in the oven, and then move the shelf up to almost the top some 15-20 minutes
        into the baking process. Total cooking
        time will be 25-35 minutes.

        Should you chose to use this recipe, I\’ll add the
        (superfluous) reminder that if you don\’t take photos, it never happened. ¡Buen provecho!

        • JoshAGrady

          p.d. There will usually be a bit of dough left over. You can use this to give Nora a bit of creative autonomy. She can roll this out, dump some jam in the middle and fold it over into tarts. Sophia particularly like the part of the process involving texturing (is scalloping the right word?) the rolled over edge of the tarts. Just remember to prick some exhaust holes into the top, sprinkle with cinnamon and put ’em in the oven at the same time as the pie.

  • Oooh don’t make pumpkin pie from those pumpkins!

    You know, the canned pumpkin we traditionally use, Libby’s (at least where I’m from), is made from a variety of butternut squash? We’re all mixed up, I guess.

    • All the pumpkin pie recipes I’ve ever found require “canned pumpkin puree” like you can find in any American grocery store, specifically for making pies. I wonder if it’s something other than just pumpkin meat pureed in a blender? It probably has some sugar and/or salt, too.

      I’d really love to find a recipe site that works from base ingredients, with no only-locally-available factory manufactured products.

      • Brendon

        I’ve seen the recipes using an actual pumpkin, and trust me, it’s not worth it. (http://www.pickyourown.org/pumpkinpie.php) Definately not just blending the meat. I’ll send you canned pumpkin if the itch to make it overwhelms you.