There’s one thing you can always count on around the holiday season…you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of nuts. Those chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Enough pecan pies to sink a ship. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnut, pistachios…all the nuts you can stuff in your cheeks, ready for the taking. They certainly are one of Mother Nature’s most perfect snacks. Packed with protein, they’re clean and neat, extremely portable, and utterly delicious. My friends with nut allergies, I weep for you.
We are nearing the end of pecan season and we’ve got some wonderful cultivators of the nut here locally. One I’ve come to know recently is Paw Paw’s Pecans out of Blackwell, AR. Paw Paw sets up shop at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, pushing samples of his nuts on anyone who will try them. He’s a burly, bearded guy, but kind, generous, and gentle-natured. You’ll often find him peddling his pecans in his tan coveralls, almost as if he’s arrived straight from the farm to bring you the freshest nuts in central Arkansas.
You may be saying to yourself, “Meh, I can just buy a bag of pecans at Kroger. I need to stop by to get kitty litter anyways.” Listen, you will not find an equivalent product on store shelves. At least not this time of year.
Local pecans are freshly harvested, from the current growing season. Many of the bagged varieties you’ll find on your grocer’s shelves are last years crop, stored frozen, and sold throughout the current year. And the difference in taste and appearance is noticeable. Pecans like Paw Paw’s are larger, meatier, and a have a beautiful light gold hue. Most of the pecan halves you’ll find in stores are dark, small, and fractured. And the difference in price is almost non-existent.
I’m sure you’ll find many uses for pecans this time of year—desserts, savory dishes, or raw…right out of the bag. Paw Paw usually offers samples of not only his raw nuts, but also some other creation he’s incorporated them into—chocolate pecan bark or honey roasted nuts, for example.
But I thought I might share this quick recipe (click here) for roasted, candied pecans, which I’ve been making on a weekly basis as of late. The nuts get a sweet and crunchy coating, all overlying the buttery nature of the pecan. I modify the recipe slightly and add a ¼ tsp. of cayenne, which adds just a hint of spice to complement the sweet and tickles the throat just a touch as they go down. These are fantastic for parties, or place in festive bags and give as gifts to friends.