Its almost that time of year again – Halloween. Different cultures all over the world see the night differently but in Australia it is increasingly being seen as a good excuse for a party and a bit of scary fun.

There are a lot of decorations and scary extras available in the shops right now but its the scary Jack o Lantern that is most prominent. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a premade one though, it is easier than you might imagine to make your own. Here’s how:

To begin you need a good sized pumpkin. Woolworths actually sell specially grown ones designed for Jack O Lantern use, but as long as the outer skin is in good shape any pumpkin will do.

Cut off the top of the pumpkin with a sharp knife, making a hole large enough so that you can then take a spoon or an icecream scoop and scoop out all the pulp. If you are feeling very creative you can save the pulp to make a pie later (recipe to follow)

You can create Jack O’ Lantern magic using a sharp but small craft knife and a bit of imagination. Here are just a few ideas:

Banged Up Jack: Cut out a standard pair of round eyes or give the pumpkin slits for eyes if that is easier for you. Next fashion him a mouth that resembles stitches. Then, using white reflective tape create more “stitched up wounds” all over the pumpkin. Not only will your jack o lantern look scary in the day but it will glow at night, an easy extra spooky touch.

Killer Jack: This decoration also calls for the addition of a few small pumpkins. Carve the traditional spooky face on your big pumpkin but give it an extra large mouth, complete with sharp teeth. Draw faces on the small pumpkins and then place them strategically around the big pumpkin so that it appears that they are being eaten!

If you are really feeling confident (and have a few hours to spare) you can visit a site called the Pumpkin Wizard, where you will find downloadable patterns that you can use to create all kinds of really intricate Jack O Lanterns. Popular patterns for 2011 include Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson!

Making a Pumpkin Pie

Remember all that leftover pulp you saved? Here’s how to turn it into a tasty pumpkin pie with ease:

1 pumpkin
1 9 inch single crust pie shell
2 eggs
220 g packed light brown sugar
8 g all-purpose flour
3 g salt
4 g pumpkin pie spice
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk

Mash pumpkin pulp, spoon into an oven safe dish and bake at 165 C for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition.

Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. Place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning.

Bake 10 minutes at 230 degrees C then reduce the oven temperature to 175 C. Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown. Cool pie, and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Serve with whipped cream for the best taste!

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