It's pecan season and the ground is covered with delicious bounty just waiting to be harvested and eaten! But there are a few things you need to do in order to enjoy their wonderful meat safely...
On a recent trip to visit my husband's parents we got to harvest a bunch of pecans from their backyard. About 20 pounds to be exact!
We shelled a few the night we picked them up, but most of them were tossed into a box to shell when we got home from our trip.
I loved shelling the pecans at the kitchen table while we chatted, Christmas music playing softly in the background and the baby running here and there.
How to Safely Clean and Store Backyard Pecans
The time we spent shelling pecans that night reminded me of my own childhood when we picked, shelled, and ate pecans from my grandparent's yard! Fortunately I had the experience of cleaning and storing our backyard pecans safely, but not everyone is so lucky!
So let me share a few tips with you now.
How to Pick a Good Pecan
First, you need to pick good pecans. Here are a few tips for doing that.
1. Make sure the outer shell has cracked and split from the inner shell.
2. Try to harvest the pecans as soon as they fall. At least within a few days. This will help increase the number of good nuts you get, and reduce the number that are lost to wildlife.
3. Look for cracks or holes in the shell. Discard those and keep looking.
4. Shake the pecan in the shell. If you hear a deep rattle, then you have a mature pecan that is ready to harvest! A hollow rattle means an underdeveloped pecan.
5. Look for a tapered end. A noticeably tapered end means that the pecan did not fully form and will not be good when shelled.
How to Shell Pecans
Next, you'll need to actually shell them. You can do that in several ways.
1. A classic hand nutcracker: this method usually yields perfect halves every time, once you get the hang of it. The only downside being that your hand will get really sore if you are doing a large quantity!
2. A hammer and board: this is the method I employed while at my in-laws, since we couldn't find their nutcracker. It takes a bit longer, but worked well and yielded many perfect halves, but there were still a lot of pieces that I had to pry out of the shells.
If you do use this method, make sure to fully crack all parts of the shell without smashing it to bits! It will make removing the nut easier.
3. A heavy duty pecan (and nuts in general) cracker: this method is my favorite! Each nut ends up taking about 15 seconds to harvest the meat from, so it's perfect for pecans in large quantities! We built a little box around ours to catch the shells and have never looked back!
Safely Preparing the Pecans for Eating and Storage
After you have the meat harvested from the shells, you need to make sure the pecans are safe for eating and storing. Here are the steps to do so!
1. Pre-heat the oven to its lowest setting. For my oven this is 170°.
2. Place pecans in a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray.
3. Bake at 170° for 45 minutes, or until fully dry all the way through. Not only does this enhance the flavor of the pecans, and give them an amazing crunch, it also has the added benefit of preventing mold from growing inside your pecan storage!
4. Allow them to cool completely.
5. Eat right away, or store in an air tight container for up to a year!
Be sure to try these Cranberry Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies!