Pumpkin Preservation – Scientifically

Background

Pumpkin carving is a fun seasonal activity for kids as well as grownups. Unfortunately carved pumpkins go bad fairly quickly and in the pursuit of making their hard work last a bit longer, several bloggers have sought out ways to minimize microbial growth of moisture loss.

When searching online, different methods are advocated as being THE WAY to preserve your carved pumpkins. There is however no real consensus on the best method.

The experiments used to test the different methods have all had the same obvious flaw. They use different pumpkins to test different methods.

Pumpkins with different genetic makeup will theoretically have different resistance to drying and attack from microorganisms. Likewise the environment the pumpkins grew in, will also likely affect their resistance to said factors.

In this experiment I tested 6 different methods to preserve a carved pumpkin while trying to minimize  the: “no two pumpkins are created equally” problem.

Method

I chose a pumpkin in good condition, divided it into 6 fairly equal size pieces. One of the pieces was left untreated as a control and the remaining 5 pieces were treated with one or more of the following preservation methods:

disinfectants

  1. Rodalon (used undiluted, contains a mix of benzalkoniumcloride and didecyl ammonium chloride in a 2,5 % aquous solution)
  2. Bleach (used undiluted, contains sodium hypochlorite in a 1-5% aquous solution, pH 12,3)
  3. Soap (a type of soap used in Denmark for cleaning with a pH of 11-12)
  4. Clear coat spray paint
  5. Pure silicone spray (automotive product that protects from moisture)

Before starting this experiment I had a theory that the optimal treatment would consist of an initial treatment with a disinfectant, followed by an inert barrier of sorts. To test this, half of the surface area of the pumpkins treated with rodalon, bleach and soap were all treated with a subsequent layer of silicone spray.

To mimic realistic conditions common carving tools were used to process the pumpkin (ice-cream scoop for cleaning out seeds and knife for carving) and no special steps were taken to ensure “sterile” working conditions. All carving was done in a “clean” kitchen environment with tools washed in the dishwasher.

The pumpkin pieces were treated one by one and placed outside near an exterior wall of our house, under the overhang of the roof, but far enough out that any rain would find its way to the pumpkins. The pumpkins were then left untouched with no repeat of the initial treatment until a winner could be announced.

Results

decay large text

 

After 9 days there was a clear winner. The rodalon treated pumpkin had done far better than any of the others and had next to no signs of microbial growth, while all competing treatments had considerable amounts of microbial growth.  The closest runner-up was the pumpkin treated with bleach, followed by the silicone treated pumpkin and the untreated (control) pumpkin on a joint third place. Surprisingly the silicone spray had no discernible effect on the pumpkins, regardless if the pumpkins had been treated with disinfectant or not. The soap treated pumpkin did slightly worse than the untreated pumpkin and the clear coat treated pumpkin did worst of all.

Discussion

Truthfully there will probably never be a “gold standard” method for preserving pumpkins. The number of factors influencing the decaying process is staggering. These include, but are not limited to: Type and amount of microorganisms introduced to the pumpkin, tools used to carve and “gut” the pumpkin, temperature, air humidity, precipitation levels, pH levels (in both pumpkin and precipitation), UV levels (uv light kills microorganisms but also degrades bleach) and the pumpkins own resistance to all of the above.

Conclusion

Unless we all start using genetically cloned pumpkins, and tightly control the environment in which the pumpkins are grown, transported, carved and later stored for viewing, different similarly performing preservation methods will come out the winner depending on the environmental factors and the particular pumpkin used.

However under the conditions this pumpkin was tested, Rodalon clearly yielded the best results in preserving our carved pumpkin. Rodalon is a brand name but products containing the same basic ingredients can be found using the US Household products database and searching for either Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride or Benzalkonium chloride. Both chemicals are Quaternary ammonium cations and can probably both be used with similar success.

Keep in mind when using strong disinfectants like these, that this is to be done with proper personal protective equipment in a well-ventilated area and is always a job for the grownups. Never mix disinfectants, or other chemicals, as the result can be fatal. As an example mixing bleach with an acid will produce Chlorine gas which will kill you fairly efficiently.

Happy Halloween

 

Painted Kitchen Utensils

Painted kitchen utensils are all over the web right now and since we needed some new salad servers, I decided to try it out.

Ombre utencilsI gathered some inspiration on Pinterest from Liz and Sarah and ended up with some dark blue acrylic paint.

Preparation is everything so make sure that your utensils are cleaned, as greasy fingerprints will make it difficult for the paint to stick.  Don’t touch the utensils without gloves once you have cleaned them. Sand the handle lightly and you are ready for the paint job.

Remember you should only paint the handle of the utensils due to food safety

I got my (very cheap) utensils from IKEA but you can them a lot of different stores. I painted them twice and gave them two layers of clear coat. In between paint coats I sanded them again as the wood grain rose slightly.

Neon Utencils

Use a good quality masking tape for the border

 

 

I tried wasing my new salad servers in the dishwasher og even though they didn’t suffer an immediate death, they didn’t like it that much. I recommend that you wash them by hand.

Painted Kitchen Utelcils

I wonder if it’s possible to use porcelain paint instead (dishwasher safe). Has anyone tried that?

Painting Clean Edges

Our recent addition to the family prompted a space reallocation. M got the old office and A got M’s old room. Most of M’s old room is white, but a single wall was painted with stripes of white and two shades of green. Painting 10 centimeter wide stripes in alternating colors on a whole wall is fairly time consuming, (but a Paint samplescheap alternative to putting up wallpaper) which is why K reassured me that the colors were gender neutral and I would not have to repaint the room, if we got a girl at some point. Turns out gender neutral colors change over time and  3 years later we are repainting (purple with a white border)……deep down I guess I knew this would happen.

This is what I learned about how to get those perfect sharp edges:

  1. Get a good quality masking tape, which will make removing the tape cleanly a lot easier.
  2. You will need two colors of paint, even if your wall is allready the color you want as a base. Even the best masking tape will still let some paint bleed under the edge of the tape and the only way to get around that problem, is to control which color bleeds under the edge.

The process is best explained with an example. Say you have a white wall and you want to paint a purple stripe on it.

  1. Start by masking off the border of the purple line, making sure to press the masking tape thouroughly to the wall.
  2. Paint the border of the tape you want to end up as purple, white (the base color) and let it dry. ThisMasking tape allows the white paint to bleed under any part of the tape that is not completely closed off.
  3. Paint the stripe purple, making sure not to go beyond the outer border of the masking tape.
  4. When you have finished with the last layer of purple, peel off the masking tape carefully to reveal a nice clean border between the two colors.

Keep your brushes in a closed plastic bag and you will be able to paint with them over and over again without rinsing, for at least a week.

EdgesSo A’ room now has a purple wall and I thought the room was finished, but last week I overheard K telling some friends that she has some regrets about the color and now wants wallpaper instead!!!……….

Pumpkin Pie & a Failed Pinecone Paint Project

I never had Pumpkin Pie before, but according to Pinterest everyone is eating Pumpkin Pie this time of year, and with so many people eating the same thing, it must be good. Unfortunately Pumkin Pie is not at tradition where I live, so I had to make some myself to get a taste.

Pumpkin PieI looked for an easy  recipe for beginners and found Easy Foolproof Pumpkin Pie. Sounded promising. This recipe suggest that you use canned pumpkin and that’s absolutely fine by me, except for the fact that I couldn’t find it anywhere. The only solution was to make the puree myself. I used this recipe for Pumpkin Puree and because I chose Hokkaido pumpkins I could skip the peeling part. You simply put the roasted pumpkins and the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and that’s that.  Very easy. I don’t know what happened to the surface of the pie though. It certainly doesn’t look like Lindsey’s, but it did taste great.

Pumpkin PieYes… this is the right amount of whipped cream

 

 

 

After pie eating we had a little DIY planned. I saw this post on how to paint pinecones and thought it would be a fun little project for M and I. The look we where going for was something like this:

but O’s first comment when he saw our work was that they looked kind of like old dog turds.

Painted Pinecones

 

Thank you very much darling…..

Apple Brownie and Apple Juice

ApplesWe are literally drowning in apples this year. We have already filled the freezer with applesauce, which will later be used for apple trifle and yesterday we juiced the remaining apples.  When you juice you get a lot of pulp and it really annoyed me to let that go to waste. This  time I tried putting it in a cake. I used this Rivercottage recipe for Beetroot Brownie and simply replaced the beetroot with apple pulp. The apple pulp is a little dry compared to freshly blended beetroot, so to compensate I added 1 dl. of water (3 fl oz) to the pulp during blending. Even when I know there is apple in this recipe, the taste is still only that of great brownie.

Applejuice

Tip: Freshly squeezed juice should be consumed pretty fast, but if you freeze it in cleaned milk cartons, it will last several months. For apple juice you might consider adding a little bit of lemon juice to reduce discoloration due to oxidation.

 

5 Effortless Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy

You bought the dog before you got kids, maybe even before you found your soul mate. You had all the time in the world to keep the dog company. You went on long walks 5 times a day and hiked on the weekends, trained every Wednesday and cuddled for at least an hour after work.

Suddenly something happened – life took a turn. Maybe you went from part-time employment to full-time, maybe you always had your dog with you to work, but weren’t able to do that anymore, maybe a baby arrived, maybe a baby with colic arrived. The possibilities are endless but we all have periods in our lifes, where its challenging to get everything done and sadly, but often true, the dog are last in line.

Here are some of the things we do to keep our (high activity) dogs happy on busy days…

Continue reading 5 Effortless Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy

Color Changing Activity Board for Toddlers

At the age of 2, M was pretty adventuros and kept us busy tidying up closets  and drawers. Part of our effort to keep his little hands busy, was to make him an activity board (busyboard). Here he could explore to his heart content, without any risk of cuts, burns, poisoning, electrocution or breaking expensive items. The board itself is nothing new.

Basically you cut a piece of fiberboard or plywood to desired size, paint it as you like, populate the board with whatever your child likes and mount the board to a suitable wall.

Our son had a special intrest in switches and colored lights and to accomodate that, I decided to mount 3 switches each controlling one channel of an RGB LED. The idea is that the individual colors can be turned on or off, one by one, enabling the child to mix the colors. The result can be seen in the video below.

The light feature is designed to be inexpensive and very easy to build. Its based on a single 5mm RGB common anode LED with voltage reducing resistors for each color.  However individual leds for each color could just as easily have been used. I used hot glue to diffuse the light.

The diagram below shows the curcuit alongside my ghetto implementation of it.

diagram and implementation

As seen I built it using whatever I had lying around that day, making this instance of the project very inexpensive and low impact. Except for paint, solder and hot glue every part is made with salvaged materials.

When someone sees the board for the first time, children and adults alike, they seem to go straight for the light switches and stay there –  fascinated.

 

The 8 Hour Diet & Healthy Peanutbutter Balls

Last week I challenged O to try a week on the 8:16 diet. He was a little hesitant at first, but was convinced when I told him, that it was for the sake of the blog.

The diet was first described by author David Zinczenko and editor-in-chief of Men’s Health Peter Moore and requires that you fast for 16 out of 24 hours a day.

For years we have been told that we should eat a lot of small meals during the day, but several experts are pro intermittent fasting for health reasons and believe that the body needs a break from food to heal itself. I don’t know about that, but I was pretty sure this test wouldn’t harm my body.

You can follow the 16:8 diet without restrictions, but if you want to lose weight it’s a good idea to consume less than 1,500 calories a day.

We didn’t count calories and ate whatever we felt like. We skipped breakfast and started eating around noon. That way it was possible to eat lunch with colleges and still have dinner together as a family.

Now for the results……

Continue reading The 8 Hour Diet & Healthy Peanutbutter Balls