What do with all the $#%!$ pecans?!
February 21, 2012 6:10 PM   Subscribe

There are pecans everywhere. Formerly they carpeted the backyard, now they're in huge container in the living room. Mostly. There are still more to pick up. A LOT more, the pecan tree has been surprisingly fruitful this year. What the hell does one do with a ton of freshly picked pecans, besides eat them and/or give them out to friends and family?

Ok, they're picked. Do you clean them now? If so, how?

Is there something else you're supposed to do with pecans after you've picked them?

Is there some small device for collecting and or cracking pecans? No, not a nutcracker, that's not gonna help.

How long do pecans keep?

Have you ever sold pecans to a distributor or grower? How'd that go for you?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pecan Butter?

Also, shelling Pecans is a good application for child labor, if you can command or borrow some. :^)
posted by Sunburnt at 6:15 PM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: I don't know about processing fresh pecans, but I do know that a) like other nuts, pecans will go rancid if kept at room temperature, though I'm not sure how long that takes (weeks?). However, b) pecans freeze well, so once you've done whatever you need to do to them (if anything), you can freeze a bunch for later.

Or send them all to me.
posted by elizard at 6:16 PM on February 21, 2012

Send HALF of them to elizard, and the other half to me.

There are often local places that will process them for you, pretty cheaply. Might be something to ask on Craigslist.

Congratulations on your bounty!
posted by cyndigo at 6:18 PM on February 21, 2012

Well Pecans are extremely popular in baked goods (pie, cakes, cookies, etc.). They're also really quite expensive to buy, so if you know anyone who loves to bake, they would certainly be a much appreciated gift. And you may get some kind of treat in return down the road.
posted by katyggls at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, freeze them, and use them all year round. They are my favorite nuts, so so good.

When I have a bucket of frozen pecans in my freezer, I use them for A) snacking, B) banana bread, C) sprinkling on top of ice cream, D) snacking, E) pecan pies, F) sprinkling on pillsbury cinnamon rolls, G) cookies, H) snacking, I) insert your favorite baked good here.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2012

Check out Pecan sheller on Amazon and freeze what you can.
posted by beccaj at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2012

Still Tasty says they will keep 2-4 weeks in the pantry, longer than in the fridge or freezer. That's for commercially bought pecans however.
posted by cozenedindigo at 6:19 PM on February 21, 2012

longer than THAT*
posted by cozenedindigo at 6:20 PM on February 21, 2012

Oh man, at least a few of those pecans would be going into some ice cream or on some pie.
posted by Fister Roboto at 6:21 PM on February 21, 2012

Send 'em to us and rtha will smoke them in her smoker.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:24 PM on February 21, 2012

When I was in high school, my family had a Texan inertia nutcracker (scroll down). We kids loved using it, because it's kinda like a slingshot you're allowed to use in the house.

2nding pecan butter. Also pecan pie, pecans in salad, pecan crusted salmon, pecans on acorn squash with maple syrup, pecan pancakes, added to granola, trail mix, pecan sandies, pecan banana bread, butter pecan ice cream. Or sell them at the farmer's market.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:25 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Send them to China:

"In 2009, China bought one-quarter of the U.S. crop, and there's no sign demand is abating."
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:26 PM on February 21, 2012

Almost forgot - you can toast them with sugar and cinnamon, or even with chili powder.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:27 PM on February 21, 2012

You'll have to crack them and clean them before using them. The dark brown stuff in the shell with the pecans is bitter, you can nudge it off with fork tine. Good activity for a winter evening in front of the TV, but if you are trying to sell them or gift them you could leave them in the shell.

Definitely freeze them if you have more than you can use in a couple of weeks. Rancid pecans are *very* disappointing.

Pecan pie. Pecan sandies. Pecans in coffee cake. Candied or spiced pecans eaten in handfuls or added to salads. Pecan crusts for cheesecakes. I'd try making some sort of pesto with pecans and whatever fresh herbs you have.
posted by bunderful at 6:29 PM on February 21, 2012

Response by poster: How to use them in food isn't the question, so please no more suggestions about who to give to or how use them in food,that's covered.

I'm just looking for suggestions on processing them, how long they keep etc so if ya'll could focus on that, it would be great, thanks!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 PM on February 21, 2012

Candied/spiced/toffied. Especially good for old-timey recipes.
posted by ApathyGirl at 6:31 PM on February 21, 2012

If you live in pecan country, there's someone nearby who will take your nuts and put them through their industrial cracker for a very reasonable amount (sometimes just a percentage of your stash, if they're good). They keep for a good long time in the freezer if you vacuum pack them, so you don't have to use them all now. (My mom and I will go two years - they're a little lackluster after that long, but they're still pretty good when baked.)

But you should make pralines, just because pralines.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:31 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

You can also make pecan pesto if you get tired of the sweet stuff. Also great in salads.
posted by Jade_bug at 6:31 PM on February 21, 2012

*Vacuum pack = FoodSaver or similar; I think there's also some zip-top vacuum bags now, I'm not sure if you just squeeze the air out or use something to suck it out. Put 'em up in 1-cup packages, take out just what you need when you need them.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:33 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

China's increased imports of pecans, along with a drought last year, caused pecan prices to reach record highs this winter. So, leave your pecans in their shells and sell them!
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:34 PM on February 21, 2012

Child labor. If you know someone with kids, who wants an afternoon to themselves. Sit the borrowed kids in front of a movie with the pecans. Feed the kids first because you should expect to lose a portion of the nutmeat to little bellies. Be thankful you're giving the kids back, because those bellies will be, um, sore.... (1 serving of pecans has about 40% of the daily suggested amount of fiber).

For a sorting activity, and to slow the eating down, have the kids put the "neat" halves into one bowl, and the broken bits into a different bowl. Maybe offer a prize to the kid who gets the most into the neat bowl, and a different prize to the kid who gets the most nutmeat into their bowls.

Why yes, my parents did know how to get us to do things, why do you ask? in our case it was crab meat, which children were not encouraged to eat. That's a scene for a different comment...
posted by bilabial at 6:37 PM on February 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding Lyn Never's suggestion of finding someone with a pecan cleaner machine. They work very fast and would be affordable to use if you have this many pecans. My girlfriend's dad and grand-dad operated a business where people could bring in their pecans to be cleaned for a reasonable price.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:42 PM on February 21, 2012

My favorite thing to do with pecans is hold two in one hand and crush them together. One shell will crack, and you feel like the Hulk. It's amazing how quickly a large bowl of pecans will go in a room full of people once you teach them this trick.
posted by coppermoss at 6:54 PM on February 21, 2012

The guy at my local farmer's market sells them for a few bucks a bag. He also roasts/seasons some of them (with what I do not know, I just pelican-nod and hand over my money.)

Our market is now closed for the winter, sooooo.... : )
posted by MansRiot at 6:58 PM on February 21, 2012

OP - are they natives or papershell? Natives have stronger shells and are more difficult to get into.
posted by bunderful at 7:02 PM on February 21, 2012

My mother used to buy pecans in bulk from a nut shop and freeze them. She'd freeze some whole, lightly crush some, coarsely grind others and finely grind the rest. If packed in air/water tight bags, they last remarkably long time in the freezer (we'd usually take 2 to 3 years to get through a stash). And then she had instant pecans, pecan pieces or pecan meal whenever she wanted it. It didn't take any time to defrost: just take a handful out of the freezer and run with it. They will go rancid more quickly if you don't preserve them in some way.
posted by mosessis at 7:05 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OP - are they natives or papershell?

Don't know the difference, here's a photo of them, can you tell?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:08 PM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: I also grew up with a Texas Inertia Nutcracker and can't recommend it highly enough. It was invented by a guy who had to crack a shit-ton of nuts, and you can tell, because it's far superior to any other nut-cracking method ever. And you can trust me because I have also shelled a shit-ton of pecans for my dad's pecan pies. Especially if your pecan bounty is going to be annual, you should order one right away. Last time I ordered one as a gift a couple years ago, it took many weeks to arrive, because the guy I got them from (same link I just gave you) makes them only to order and isn't in a big hurry.

My grandfather used to send us a large box full of pecans from his TX backyard every autumn, and we'd process those and cook with them throughout the holidays and beyond. The process is the same as what you should do - just crack them and remove any bitter pith that clings to the nutmeats.

Then put the nutmeats into ziploc-style freezer bags and freeze. They'll keep for months, I'd say about 3-6 months, but over the years I noticed that before a full year has gone by they are liable to get dehydrated and somewhat chewy due to their time in the freezer. As with anything, double-bagging them may help them last a bit longer. Even if that chewiness happens, though, you can still toast them for a pretty good result, or use them in any recipe that calls for them to be toasted first. I've certainly used them at a year old and, coming from the freezer, they weren't rancid, they just weren't at their best.

There is no real difference between papershells and wild-pollinated pecans. They're exactly the same plant, just two different categories with several varieties in each; papershells have just been bred for softer shells and bigger nuts. You can process them in exactly the same way. What you have depends on who planted your trees and when and what they did to maintain them, but there's a quick way you can tell whether they're papershell or not: put two in your hand, squeeze, and if one of them splinters open, they are likely papershells. Wild-pollinated pecans have harder shells that take much more effort to crack and create pretty sharp shards.

As you can see I adore pecans and am envious of your abbondanza.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: (You don't have to wash, soak, toast or otherwise do anything weird to them before freezing. Just freeze them as they come out of the shell. Every now and then you will find a funky nut - just toss it out).
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on February 21, 2012

I freeze the pecans after shelling, and they taste still fresh after two years. I use the shells for mulch around my azaleas and crepe myrtles.
posted by francesca too at 8:13 PM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: Tips on harvesting backyard pecans - here's another page that talks about letting them dry for 2 weeks. I didn't think about that step but it makes sense you don't want them green. Wait until they're brown - in the picture yours look fine. If they've been on the ground awhile they're probably dry.

Most sources are saying hey, a rake is probably your fastest method of gathering. I like the first link which suggests raking the yard as clean as you can a week or so before pecans start to drop. That way there'd be less debris to sort through when you rake up the nuts.

As far as selling them - you might look into local farmer's markets. However I would imagine they're not too rare a crop if you have them too, and the price may not make it worth your while. That said, since my grandfather passed we have ordered inshell pecans online and perhaps you could into that as a cottage industry.
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on February 21, 2012

Each individual pecan is worth about a nickel at the current wholesale rate of about a buck-fifty a pound.

Georgia has roadside buyers of the nuts- I'm not sure where you are, and all the information I know about pecans is gathered from the internets.

Pecan theft has been a problem in Georgia this year
posted by rockindata at 8:42 PM on February 21, 2012

Yes, freeze them once you have them shelled. A pecan that's gone off is not pleasant. And -- pecans have been expensive and in short supply this year. You're a lucky dog, enjoy them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:11 PM on February 21, 2012

Another data point - I am in the UK and last week was looking at a recipe that asked for "pecans or almonds". Pecans were £4 for a 125g bag ($6.30 for 5oz). So I used almonds. If you can find a way of selling to a distributor, you might get a good price...
posted by altolinguistic at 3:05 AM on February 22, 2012

Don't know the difference, here's a photo of them, can you tell?
I can't tell by looking, but Miko is right. If they crack easily they're papershells. The same cracking and cleaning and freezing still applies, but the cracking takes longer and is harder on the fingers.
posted by bunderful at 4:43 AM on February 22, 2012

How to Process Pecans:
1. Shell them
2. Freeze them
posted by govtdrone at 5:51 AM on February 22, 2012

Best answer: My friend Emily has a Davebilt nutcracker with a hopper that processes a lot of nuts quickly. It's not cheap at $150, but it's fast. Here's video of it in action.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2012

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