The first Jack-o-lantern was from 4 years ago & the 2nd one is from this year.
We usually wait until the day before Halloween to buy our pumpkin & then carve it. We don't put it outside until Halloween night & then the next day or two after I cook it. This is how I spent a good part of my day today. I'm warning you... it is quite a process, but it is so worth the fresh pumpkin in the end. So here's my process:
When I cut the pumpkin up I make sure to cut off the edges that were carved because they get a little dried out. I also throw away the top & bottom parts where the stem is. I cut it into large chunks & then with my sharp knife I scrape the "strings" off the inside as much as possible.
Add the pumpkin chunks to a large pot, fill with water, cover with a lid & bring the water to a boil. Once it comes to a boil turn the temperature down to a medium-high level for about 35 minutes.
Then drain the water & run cool water over the chunks until they are cool enough to handle. As you can see from my picture I filled the bowl with cold water, but the cool water got warm very quickly so I dumped it out & had to fill it again, so it's probably more effective to just run the water over the chunks in a colander.
Once it is cool enough to handle, use your sharp knife to peel the skin off of all of the pieces.
Then mash the pumpkin, just like you would mashed potatoes, but make sure to get all the lumps out. After I used my masher I then used a fork to make sure there were no chunks left at all. You may see a little water in the pumpkin & that's ok, just leave it there.
If you don't plan to use the pumpkin right away, then measure it out & put it in ziploc freezer bags. I measure out 1.5 cups because that's how much I use to make 2 pumpkin pies so it's already ready to just dump into the bowl when you're ready to make your pie.
I actually cook the seeds too. I wash all the "brains" off of them & then spread them out on a cookie sheet & salt them. They are a yummy, nutritious snack.
I've never tried these, but here's a recipe for cinnamon-sugar pumpkin seeds. You can also plant your seeds to grow your own pumpkin (I've never tried this either, although it sounds like something I'd like to do).
Check out my mother-in-law's recipe for Pumpkin Pie. I've made these every year since the year 2000, when my in-laws left on their mission for our church & my mil wasn't here to bake them that year. I had to call her & get her recipe because after you've had a homemade (from scratch) pumpkin pie, you can't go back (at least I can't).