Sojourn through Pecan Country

— by Ethel G. Hofman

I’ve always associated the state of Georgia with the best peaches — sweet and juicy, fresh picked from local orchards. But on our annual trip to South Florida, we decided to break the 1000 mile trip at a hotel south of Savannah, Georgia where we could be sure, Sally, our little Sheltie would be welcome. At this time of year, it’s not peaches but pecans that are the star harvest.  Georgia is the leading pecan producing state in the United States with the nut harvest  around mid-October. Billboards along the roadside advertised pecans in all their colorful glory.  In stores, gas stations, and roadside stands, packages of  pecans were being sold. Candied, chocolate covered, peppered with a bite, pecans were found in everything from baked goods (the famous pecan pie) candy, ice cream to a host of other treats.

Four pecan-oriented recipes follow after the jump.
Wild pecans were a delicacy to the Colonists but the commercially grown in the US did not begin until the 1880’s. Today the United States produces between 80-95% of the world’s pecans from more than 10 million trees. Modern orchards with plantings of scientifically improved pecan varieties now yield what are called “paper shell” pecans, so called because the nuts are easy to crack and shell.  Pecan trees may live and  produce edible seeds for more than 300 years.   Pecan producing companies use the latest technology to shell, sort and perform laboratory tests to ensure quality before the nuts are distributed to food manufacturers.  The South Georgia Pecan Company,  alleged to be the only pecan grinding plant in the world, grinds the shells and sells it to plywood and furniture manufacturers. The manufacturers mix the pecan shell flour with resin to create a product that looks like real wood.

I didn’t succumb to buying a pecan pie. Instead, we bought several pounds which I’ve  already transformed into pies, crunchy toffee and chocolate dipped pecans. The rest was packed into sturdy plastic bags and are now in my freezer (as with most other nuts, pecans freeze well.)

Below are some of my favorite recipes.  Use a frozen pie shell, and the Citrus Scented Pecan Pie is ready for the oven in minutes. Freezes well if you want to make it ahead.

Citrus Scented Pecan Pie (dairy)

serves: 8-10

  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted  
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the corn syrup,brown sugar, butter, eggs, orange and lemon juices and peel.  Fold in the pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into the pie crust. Bake in preheated oven 40 to 45 minutes or until center is still wobbly.  Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature.

One Bowl Pecan Crusted Kugel (pareve)

serves: 8-10

  • 1/2 pound medium noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup non-dairy creamer
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons margarine, melted, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with non-stick vegetable spray.
In a large bowl, mix the noodles, non-dairy creamer, eggs, sugar, raisins, ginger, lemon juice and about 4 tablespoons melted margarine.  Pour into the prepared baking dish. Scatter the pecans over and drizzle with remaining margarine. Bake in preheated oven 50-60 minutes or until golden, crusty and almost firm in center. Serve warm.  

Easiest Pecan Tassies (dairy or pareve)

makes 15

Miniature filo tartlets, (found in supermarket freezer cases)  make this quick and easy. Just mix a filling, spoon into the tartlets and bake.

  • 1 package (15 each) filo tartlet shells
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the tartlets on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Spoon, dividing equally, into the tartlets.  Bake in preheated oven 10-15 minutes or until filling is almost set, but still wet in center.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Zesty Chili Pecans (pareve)
makes 2 cups

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 275F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, pepper, paprika, brown sugar, and garlic powder
Place the pecans in a larger bowl and toss with the hot sauce to coat. Sprinkle the spice mixture over and toss.  Spread the tossed nuts on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake, tossing every 10 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant, about 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with the salt and toss.  Remove to a shallow dish to cool completely at room temperature.  Store and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

© Ethel G. Hofman 2013


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