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Author’s Note: I was delighted to receive two recipes from Declaration readers after last week’s cranberry article and recipes. I wanted to share these with you this week.
By Chez J. Zane
Special to The Declaration
Pecan trees are the only major nut tree that grows naturally in North America. Pecan history dates back to the 16th century. Pecan, the name is a Native American word used to describe nuts requiring a stone to crack. Wild pecans were readily available and many Native American tribes used pecans as a major food source in autumn.
Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees in his nut orchard at Monticello. George Washington was given pecan trees by Jefferson, which still grow at Mount Vernon today. Washington called agriculture “the noblest of all occupations”.
During the 1700’s and early 1800’s, the pecan became an item of commerce for the American colonists and the pecan industry was born. In some southern areas, the wild pecan harvest was more valuable than cotton.
The thinness of the pecan shell is important in determining the value. The term “paper shell pecan” refers to the thinness that allows two nuts placed in the fist to be easily cracked, usually producing perfect halves. Too thin of a shell can be a problem however in that the kernel can swell, crack open the shell lending itself to disease infestation.
Pollination of pecan trees is no problem. The pecan tree is wind pollinated and a tree as far away as 10 miles can pollinate another. Some cultivators are self-pollinating. Despite the fact that pecans are mainly southern in origin, the nut shows a surprising resistance to cold.
Pecans contain higher antioxidant amounts than any other nut. Pecans have a very high concentration of Vitamin A which helps protect teeth, eyes and bones. A handful of pecans offer Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber. The drawback to pecan consumption is their fat content.
We cooks must consider how wonderful pecans are in lending superior flavor and texture to foods, but also the nutritional benefits. Because of the recent interest in nuts as a healthy food, sales of pecans and other nuts have skyrocketed. The average cost of a pound of pecans in 2011 is $8. This cost is dependent on region of county and distribution.
Hope you readers try and enjoy the following recipes. Remember to toast the pecans for maximum flavor and crunch.
Next week we explore Sweet Potatoes.
Toasting nuts is well worth the extra time. The toasting process brings out and intensifies their flavor. Toasting also maximizes their crunch. To toast: place nuts of choice in a single layer on a baking pan. (I use a cast iron skillet.) Place in 350 degree preheated oven for 7 minutes; stir with a fork making sure all nuts are moved around. Toast 5 more minutes. They should be fragrant and beginning to slightly darken. Remove from oven to cool. If using a cast iron skillet, remove nuts to cooling rack—the cast iron retains heat and the cooking process will continue.
Watch the nuts closely while in the oven—they scorch and burn quickly.
Toasted Pecan-Caramel Sauce
¼ c. toasted chopped pecans
¾ c. sugar
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ c. evaporated milk
1 ½ tsp. butter
Sprinkle sugar in an even layer in small saucepan. Stir together syrup and 1/3 cup water; pour over sugar. Cook without stirring over medium heat for 12 to 14 minutes or until sugar dissolved and syrup is turning golden.
Remove from heat, gradually whisk in milk (mixture will bubble). Stir in butter and pecans.
Wonderful on ice cream, pound or cheese cake.
Choose pecan halves that are not broken. The unbroken halves look better when being used for decoration. These are good for just munching.
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt (Kosher)
1 Tbsp. bourbon, rum or water
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. light brown sugar
2 c. pecan halves (toasted)
Combine granulated sugar and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring bourbon, butter, vanilla and brown sugar to a boil in a small to medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Stir in pecans and cook, stirring constantly to coat until the nuts are shiny and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 ½ minutes.
Remove from heat; add pecans to sugar/salt mixture; toss to combine. Spread in single layer (not touching) on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Allow to cool completely. Store in air-tight container.
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. pepper
1 ½ c. pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook first 6 ingredients in a skillet over medium-high heat; stir until brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; stir in pecans. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool; store in air-tight container.
Pecan Fried Rice (wonderful side dish)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1 stick margarine
4 c. cooked and cooled rice
1 c. broken pecans
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Sauté onions and celery in margarine until crisp/tender. Add rice and pecans; mix well and heat through.
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow cream
1 ½ lbs. chocolate kisses
5 c. sugar
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 stick butter
6 c. pecan pieces
Place marshmallow cream and kisses in a large bowl; set aside. Combine sugar, milk and butter in large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 8 minutes. Remove from heat; pour over marshmallow and kisses; stir until smooth. Add pecans and stir until all coated. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper to cool. When cool, store in air-tight container.
*This is like globs of chocolate pecan fudge—Yum! Yum!
Toasted Pecan Pound Cake
1 ½ c. toasted pecans
2 sticks unsalted butter
¼ c. shortening
3 c. sugar
3 c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees; grease and flour tube pan.
Cream butter and shortening for a couple of minutes. Add sugar slowly to butter mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk; begin and end with flour mixture. Add vanilla and fold in pecans. Pour into pan; bake for about 80 minutes. Start testing for doneness at 1 hour. Remove when cake tests done. (Do Not Over bake!) Let cool 20 minutes in pan. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle on cream vanilla icing.
Creamy Vanilla Icing
1 ½ c. confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Mix all together until smooth; drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans.
Southern Pecan Pie
3 large eggs, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 tsp. salt
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. dark corn syrup
1 c. pecan halves
1 unbaked 9” pie shell
Combine first 6 ingredients; mix well in a medium bowl. Pour into pie shell; arrange pecan halves on top.
Bake in 375 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before slicing. Serve with dollop of whipped cream.
The first recipe comes from Sandy Venzie who is a wonderful gourmet cook. She always prepares culinary delights to tempt the palate.
Scalloped Sweets and Cranberries
6 sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced length-wise
1 ½ c. homemade whole cranberry sauce
¾ c. water
½ c. brown sugar
¾ tsp. grated orange rind
¾ tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
Place potatoes in a greased two-quart casserole dish. Combine cranberry sauce, water, brown sugar, orange rind and cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Add butter and pour over sweet potatoes. Bake 20 minutes in a 325 degree preheated oven.
The second recipe comes from Jaclyn and Connie Anders, also wonderful cooks. I thought this recipe strange, but I do like all the ingredients. This past weekend I prepared this “amazing turkey”. Readers talk about delighting the taste buds…this did! Super moist and flavorful meat with a wonderful sauce to serve over the meat, stuffing or mashed potatoes. My buddy, Sandy Bowers of Baywood, also prepared this turkey and she received the same reaction. “Left-overs”…a breast carcass.
Anders Amazing Turkey Breast
1 turkey breast, to fit comfortably in your crock pot (I use my oval shaped crock pot so a 5-7 lb. breast does nicely)
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 pkg. Lipton onion soup mix
Chunk up cranberry sauce and place in bottom of crock pot. Wash turkey breast and pat dry. Rub on light coating of vegetable oil; roll breast in soup mix to coat well. Place breast on top of cranberry sauce; sprinkle remaining dry soup around. Cover and cook on high for 7 hours. Remove breast from crock pot; strain sauce. Serve with usual turkey fixings.