Archive for Rutabaga


Posted in Home with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by slaughteredpumpkin

We have passed the half-way point, to the deranged and unhinged Halloween fan the coming of May is the mid point of a long year – but fear not Hallow fans, for the year is turning and the days will soon rush towards the Summer Solstice, which can mean only one thing? The days will shorten and Halloween will be closer still! So what are we to do, what vestige of Halloween can we bring to the gay month of May? Why a Punkie of course, that staple of ancient British Halloween, Pumpkins are rather thin on the ground at this time of year, but a Swede, well we can buy those by the bucket full! So get those wrist muscles finely tuned and practice your finest Punkies for the glorious fright season that will be here before you can utter a scream!

 The presence of a pumpkin, that typically swollen, orange, grinning symbol of Halloween is commonplace; in fact it has become ‘The’ mascot of the season. Practically every Halloween based book on the market and the plethora of websites dedicated to this festival will contain tips for growing, gutting, peeling, carving, stuffing and anything else you could possibly do with a pumpkin! We could have ventured down the same route, but we have instead chosen a different direction. Not that we are turning our back on the popular pumpkin, not at all, they will grace the Halloween threshold with equal pride to its traditional British counterpart, the long ignored and abandoned Punkie lantern!

Punkies, a carved Swede or Turnip, known to our American cousins as the Rutabaga; lovingly derived from the Swedish meaning “Root Bag” is the traditional Celtic version of a Pumpkin. As the reader you may have never carved a Swede or Turnip, or these words serve only to make your blood run cold as you recall childhood memories of Swede carving, aching wrists and stiff fingers! The task of carving a lantern, a Punkie, is no easy task, and requires significantly more effort than carving a Pumpkin. The Swede is hard, rock hard, it has no seed pocket at its centre, but thankfully, they are remarkably smaller than a pumpkin.

The markings and colouration of the Swede make for seriously sinister lanterns, and although they appear less orange on the surface, than a Pumpkin, a candle at its centre magically emits a staggeringly orange light. The outer skin of the Swede ranges in colour from deep purple to beige and pale yellow, a plethora of peculiar patterns, scars and markings provide ample opportunity for the budding carver to invoke the root’s personality. The fact that the Swede is a root is what makes it so different from the pumpkin which gets to bask in sunlight and feel the elements against its orange shell. The Swede alas, is submitted to a life of darkness beneath the earth’s surface; there it lingers in perpetual gloom, awaiting the farmers plucking, when finally it sees the sun. Its nature as a root makes it a creature of the underworld, its sinister appearance and peculiar light quality made it a perfect candidate for a lantern that would protect the living from the dead.

The Swede cannot compete with the size of a pumpkin, but what it lacks in stature it makes up in personality, these versatile little roots are pretty freaky lanterns. They will add another depth to your decorations and heighten the atmosphere of your haunt. Do not stop at one, they are much cheaper to buy than a pumpkin, go crazy and buy a dozen or more! Even the smallest Swede can look pretty amazing, but do bear in mind that they will not last as long as the pumpkin; they do not share the same outer shell. But with an army of carvers some petroleum jelly you will still manage to squeeze three days worth of value from the humble Swede.

For the task, and do bear in mind it is an arduous task; yet highly rewarding, you will need the following:

·         A range of Swede’s – Turnips

·         A sharp serrated knife

·         A craft knife

·         Marker pen

·         Metal ice cream scoop (Non-mechanical)

·         An old metal spoon

·         Petroleum Jelly

·         Night lights

·         String

·         Pumpkin carving miniature saw

Begin by examining your Swede and deciding which aspect is best suitable for a face. Swedes have unique features which differ greatly from the uniformity of a pumpkin. Once you have found the best place for its face, draw the features directly onto the skin with a marker pen. Now set the Swede into a plastic shopping bag, to prevent shrapnel spattering your kitchen, and on a sturdy work surface slice a section off its bottom end to assist its standing. Remove the top section, or crown of the Swede, ensuring that you allow enough space to insert a knife a scoop or a spoon, do this by inserting the blade of a serrated knife at a 45 degree angle. This ensures that by removing the lid you simultaneously remove a good section of the Swede’s innards.

Set the lid aside and with a knife begin to slice deep lines into the Swede’s flesh, carve the lines close together, then slice in the opposite direction to create a grid or lattice type pattern. Now with a metal ice cream scoop, use the non-mechanical type, dig out the lattice of flesh. Bear in mind this is difficult work, the air may well be fragrant with vivid language, and the Swede may also demand that you provide it with blood (worry not, some blood will add to the final result), but hang in there, you will get the hang of it! Once the majority of the Swede is de-fleshed continue to slice at the inside edges of the root to thin the walls, alternate between ice cream scoop and spoon, whichever performs the best.

As you approach the outer skin take care not to puncture the thinning walls. When you are happy with the hollow you have created begin to carve the features. The best tool for this task is one of the miniature carving saws found in any pumpkin carving kit. Do this with care, the Swede is a delicate creature and must be treated kindly. Now push a metal skewer or cross headed screw-driver through the flesh of the Swede around a quarter of an inch from the cut open end to accommodate string for hanging, repeat directly opposite. Pop in a lit night light and replace the Swede’s lid. Wait a few minutes for the candle flame to scorch the inside of the lid, remove the lid and carve the scorched section out to create a chimney.

Smear the cut edges of your Punkie with petroleum jelly to prevent the flesh from shrinking and turning brown. This will preserve your lantern and extend its life by at least 24 hours.

Your Punkie is now complete and ready to protect you from those things that go bump in the night.

Follow these guidelines for maximum Funky Punkie effect:

·         Punkies look good when grouped together in large numbers of varying sizes; group them with natural wood products, logs or branches. Use artificial autumn foliage to add depth of colour.

·         Fill a window sill with Punkies at varying heights using empty boxes or stacks of CD’s or DVD’s covered in fabric, spooky cloth or sacking. Scatter pine cones amidst the company of Swedes.

·         Make an effective outdoor display by upturning a large garden container, or using a suitable table or wooden box to stack a group of Punkies. Stand them at varying heights using plant pots or stones on top of coarse straw or moss.

·         If you are fortunate to have a spiked garden fence or balcony, push a carved Punkie onto each spike before lighting. Glow sticks are perfect for illuminating outdoor Punkies.

·         Line an assembly of Punkies on a wall or veranda.

·          Indoors, arrange a table display of Swedes grouped together with tall pillar candles, place gourds and squash of various sizes amidst the Punkies to create a festive vegetable patch.

·         If you have glass fronted cabinets or bookcases place a selection of grim faced Punkies within them, for these, use the small purpose made battery Jack-o-lantern lights.