Don’t Jack my Lantern

Some warty, some fat, some lean and tall. There are as many different shapes and sizes of pumpkins as types of people. There are white pumpkins, some smooth and others warty. When they’re carved, it looks like something out of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Pumpkins with long, gnarly, curving stems like a horn. 

Roadside stands with pumpkins up on a wagon. 3 for $9 and a money box. The honor system.

October and November nights that are so gusty I think of The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything.

Now mostly smashed pumpkins, rotting pumpkins. Pumpkins carved too early in the season begin to curl and mold. There are whole green and black ecosystems that form inside of them. The faces carved into them curl up into themselves like someone rapidly aging.

The first pumpkin I carved this year looked like a mentally challenged old person. I had a hard time creating the facial expression for it on a whim. At last, there was an intervention and someone else finished that pumpkin, carving a massive grin and off-center teeth (perhaps contributing to the aging man look). I was too exasperated to finish. My second pumpkin I prepared for. I would carve a cat. That was much more successful, and less stressful too.

I learned there are pumpkin carving techniques. You can carve the outer, bright orange skin off and leave the white. The candle light shines through to give a pumpkin a real shit eating grin – like the white are its gums – or a smoking pipe. It can have white eye brows or eyelashes.

Colin carves without any plan and with complete ease. He’s always finished first. He and the pumpkin are both grinning foolishly.

We cook our pumpkin seeds the next morning. One batch, we roast with butter and salt. The other, we attempt to candy coat.

Using the following recipe, found on, we successfully created something a lot like pumpkin seed brittle:

1/2 cup butterscotch caramel sauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon extract

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups pumpkin seeds, roasted

1 cup almonds, crushed

Lightly coat baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large skillet, slowly melt the caramel sauce and sugar. When melted stir in cinnamon extract and cayenne. Continue cooking until mixture reaches a temperature of 310 degrees F. Stir in pumpkin seeds until completely coated. Spread caramelized seeds onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with crushed almonds. Separate seeds with wooden spoon until cooled. Place on a baking sheet, lightly coated with cooking spray, in a preheated 250 degree F oven.

We had to use a candy thermometer, and it took a fair amount of time to heat the mixture to the desired temperature. Do it slowly, stirring, as you don’t want to overheat it. We also used parchment paper, which saved us a lot of clean up on the pan, and made it easy to get the seeds off after they had cooled. Don’t bother trying to flip them at all while they are baking, they’re too sticky and it doesn’t make a difference.

They are definitely a tasty treat, and a nice, sweet, crunchy garnish on a salad.


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