As Halloween is rapidly approaching shop entrances are full of pumpkins. Whilst pumpkin carving is a tradition which is widely celebrated in the US it has also grown in popularity elsewhere. It is an activity which my family really enjoys and, over the years we have had quite a variety of designs for our Halloween pumpkins. But, have you ever wondered why people carve pumpkins in the first place? And, once you have carved your pumpkin, what do you do with the pumpkin flesh itself? In this blog post we will look at both the history of pumpkin carving and provide you with a delicious pumpkin soup recipe.
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The tradition of pumpkin carving originates from an 18th-century Irish myth.
The story goes that a blacksmith known as Stingy Jack was banned from both heaven and hell after tricking the devil twice. In the first instance, Stingy Jack, invited the devil to a drink but refused to pay. He convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin so that he could use that to pay for the drinks. The devil obliged but, instead of paying for the drinks, Jack kept the money in his pocket next to a silver cross. This prevented the devil from changing back to his original form.
Eventually Jack freed the devil subject to the devil agreeing not to bother Jack for a year and promising that should Jack die he would not claim his soul. A year later, Jack again tricked the devil. This time asking the devil to climb up a tree to pick some fruit. While he was there, Jack carved a sign of the cross on the tree bark so that the devil could not get down and made the devil promise not to bother Jack for ten more years.
It is said that upon Jack’s death the devil took pity on Stingy Jack and gave him an ember of coal to use in his turnip lantern as he wandered the earth throughout eternity. From here Stingy Jack gained the nickname of Jack-of-the-Lantern, or jack-o-lantern and people began carving demonic faces out of turnips to frighten away Jack’s soul.
Upon moving to the US, Irish immigrants continued this tradition but upon finding that pumpkins, which are native to North America, are a much better canvas for creative designs the today’s pumpkin carving tradition was born.
Carving Your Pumpkin
When it is time to carve your pumpkin be sure to have all the supplies you need to ensure a suitably ghoulish result.
Firstly, choose a pumpkin that is smooth and has a flat base. This will ensure that it is stable whilst carving and when it is on display.
Secondly, consider investing in some specialised tools such as these to make cutting easier and safer. I also like to use stencils such as these for my designs. Alternatively, you can also print out a picture and use it to trace the image onto the pumpkin before cutting. This will allow you to create detailed designs.
Once you have cut out your design, scoop out the flesh from the pumpkin and add a candle or an LED light to illuminate your lantern. You should aim to scoop out as much of the flesh as possible, keeping the walls of the pumpkin around 1cm thick.
So once you’ve finished carving your pumpkin what should you do with the flesh? Well, waste not want not, like my gran always says. Use the delicious pumpkin flesh to create a scrumptious soup – perfect for the cooler weather. If you are using a pumpkin weighing around 2-3kg you should end up with between 700 and 1000g of pumpkin flesh. We love using this to make this creamy pumpkin soup
- 25g butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 900g (ish) pumpkin flesh
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 vegetable stock cubes dissolved in 450ml of hot water
- 200g cream cheese
- 450ml milk
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped chives
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Melt the butter in a very large saucepan. Add the onion and fry gently for around 3 minutes until soft but not brown.
- Add the pumpkin, red pepper and vegetable stock and heat until simmering. Turn down the heat and cook on low for about 20 minutes, partially covered.
- Check that the vegetables are nice and tender and then transfer the mixture into a blender. Add about the cream cheese and blend until completely smooth
- Return the blended mix to the saucepan and add the milk, half of the chives and salt and ground pepper to taste.
- When serving the soup, chop a little more chives over each individual bowl.
Happy Carving and Happy Halloween
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If you love soup during this time of year, check out some of our other delicious soup recipes here.
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