A great year for pecans

November 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

Arlo's pecan pie

The pecan drop this year is huge. The ground under the pecan trees that line our driveway is covered with them, and more seem to fall every day. Pecan pie (recipe below), pecan peach cobblers, toasted pecans with cinnamon, a handful of raw pecans to snack on, pecan granola, and more – so many great feasts ahead. Locally grown, fertilized by the ducks and deer who frequent the place, no pesticides, and free for the picking up.

I remember another year like this one, 1984, the year I was carrying Emma. Eight months pregnant, leaning over was out of the question. Luckily the ground was so densely covered with nuts that I could sit in one place, pick up 30 or 40 pecans and then scoot to a new spot and do it again. I managed to fill buckets that way. This year has been like that one. I have picked up about 100 pounds and there are still more on the ground.

Our driveway is part of the Old Raleigh Road, the carriage road that cut across Chatham County long before Route 64 was built. The trees are at least 100 years old.  The girth of the largest one is 12 and ½   feet.  Several years ago we were approached by the DOT. They wanted to pave the half-mile, dead end road that we live at the very end of, and the neighbors were all for the idea. So we agreed, but only with the stipulation that they stop at the top of the lane of pecan trees and leave the dirt road as it is for the last 200 yards that passes underneath them.

The fancy new paved road would have required cutting the trees down, a senseless slaughter that the DOT seemed to have no qualms about. But we did. Now the new paved road ends in a cul de sac, just short of these wonderful old trees, marked by a sign that says “State Maintenance Ends.”  Maybe I should add one that says “Pecan Preservation Begins.”

For many years I would look out the kitchen window this time of year and see somebody hunched over picking up pecans. The old timers knew about these trees and we were happy to see them filling their buckets. As I filled mine today I realized they have all stopped coming. One by one they have died off, and the next generations in the area don’t know, or don’t care, to come picking.

Instead we have a murder of happy crows, and the squirrels are keeping very busy as well. Which is fine. There is a generous plenty.

What’s next? The nuts need to dry for a while to concentrate the sugars and lose their raw flavor. Then there is the massive task of shelling them all. A few nights at the kitchen table with various styles of nutcrackers won’t get it done, and I’m open to suggestions.

With all the talk of GMOs, pesticides, food miles, and such, these are a treasure in our local foodshed, planted by our ancestors to nourish us.  Take a walk, there may be some in your neighborhood as well. And this is the moment to find them. Native pecan trees, I am told, take 15 years before they bear fruit. I am thankful for the farmer who had patience to plant these trees and wait.

And I am inspired to plant more fruit and nut bearing trees for those coming along behind me.  May they enjoy their own great years, just as we are doing with this one.

* * *

Arlo’s Fabulous Pecan Pie

Delicious Pie Crust

¼ c sugar

2 tsps freshly grated orange or lemon peel

½ c chilled butter, cut into chunks

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ c flour

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tbl  water if needed

Mix sugar and citrus peel until thoroughly blended. Add butter, salt, flour.  Rub together until mixture is crumbly, work in egg yolk until the dough is light yellow.

Sprinkle vanilla and water (if needed) over the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pie filling

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

pinch of salt

¼ cup local sorghum molasses and ¾ c maple syrup

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup pecans

Fill crust and lay an additional ½ cup of pecans artfully on the top.

Bake for 350 degrees for 50 minutes in a 9” pie pan.


Entry filed under: Carol Peppe Hewitt, Locavore recipes, Recipes, Sustainable Food. Tags: , , , , , .

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