We affectionately call our Lavaca County acreage a farm, but that’s only what we hope it eventually becomes. For now, our home on the banks of the Brazos River is our only harvest site.
Native pecan trees tend to alternate heavy harvests every other year if you indulge them, and with last year’s severe drought we had no choice. So this year the pecans are heavy on the trees. Every blackbird that lands on a branch causes nuts to rain down in our yard, and our neighbors’ yards. The seasonal pecan operation at the end of our street is up and running, but only paying 50 cents a pound – about half the going rate in 2010. Consequently, very few neighborhood women and kids are patrolling the streets for spare pecans, which they ordinarily would be doing by now. If the nut prices rise, I’ll know it by the increasing foot traffic in front of my house.
We have 11 pecan trees on our grounds, and the fruit of each have discernible individual characteristics. The tree in the southeast corner of the back yard has in my opinion both the largest and tastiest. And since the harvest is so heavy, those are the only nuts I will expend effort to bend over and pick up. Also, I have a hand-operated pecan cracker with an adjustable cracking chamber, so if I confine all my picking to the one tree, I don’t have to keep changing the size of the chamber.
That allows me to crack and shell my pecans a lot faster. Yesterday I devoted an hour to cracking and shelling pecans. The results, mostly unscathed pecan halves, weighted 1.25 pounds – about $12.50 from the cheapest retailers. That won’t make you rich, but obviously beats 50 cents for a pound of unshelled nuts. Their real value, however, relates to what you do with them next. I recommend roasting them or baking them into the below:
Uncle Bob’s Pecan Pie
→ 6 tablespoons of softened butter
→ 1 cup of dark brown sugar
→ 3 eggs
→ 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
→ 1/2 tsp salt
→ 3/4 cup light corn syrup
→ 2 cups of pecan pieces
→ 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shells
→ 2 tablespoons of bourbon
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a mixer to blend butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, syrup and bourbon together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time.
Roll out the pie shell and use it to line the bottom of a pie pan. Spread half of the pecans on top of the shell.
Stir the remainder of the pecans into the pie filling, and pour it all on top of the layer of pecans in the pie pan.
Pop the pie into the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the edges of the pie crust turn golden brown and the pie filling is heated through.
The other objects of harvest here at the tail-end of October include some excellent sweet peppers, which are none the worse for wear in spite of three nights in a row below 45 degrees; Japanese persimmons, the taste and texture of which are actually improved by the cooler weather; and our one cucuzza vine, which refuses to stop producing these big Italian squashes, seemingly no matter what. We have obtained 18 tasty squashes – most more than 2 feet long – from this one plant over the past four months, by my count.
Plant three of them and you could feed a village.