I love baking with pecans. You can put them in desserts, breads, salads, and even coat chicken with them. The bad news is my budget does not have much room for pecans at the going rate these days. Any grocery store you walk in is going to charge 8.00/lb and up! I went into Aldi the other day and they were selling 6oz. for 3.99. They have a reputation around here for having some of the best deals, but definitely not on pecans.
My in-laws used to buy them by the bucket full and spend all the fall season shelling them. When I married my husband he had a good stockpile of the nuts lining the bottom of his freezer. Now our supply is gone so it has been time for me to try to find a good deal. I’m not sure how the conversation began, but my husband had mentioned to me there was a park near us full of pecan trees. Apparently people go there all the time picking the pecans that have fallen off these trees. And yes, for free! If you have one or can find one, use a tool made specifically for harvesting nuts. Ours has a long handle and a half circle shape made out of metal with spaces in between the spokes. You just press the tool down onto the nut and the metal moves slightly to allow the nut into the little basket. We have also seen some people with similar tools on wheels. They just roll behind them as they walk. This works for the larger nuts, however as we went over the same areas these people did, we found they left lots of small nuts behind for us. Another tip is to go after windy weather. This past week we had a lot of gusty winds, and after returning to the park we noticed lots more nuts had fallen. I have two little ones who love picking them up off the ground. All I have to do is point my toe where it is, and they are more than eager.
We have spent no more than an hour or two the past couple of Saturdays picking these nuts. After about 2 hours of work we have a supply of about 5 pounds of nuts, in the shells of course. The hard part is the shelling. The pecans we have been fetching are native and paper shell. They are a oval shaped nut with a tan shell with thin black stripes. Have a nutcracker handy, and try to only crack the shell enough that you can pry open with a paring knife. This way you will be able to keep the nuts intact instead of crushed, making it easier to wiggle out of their shells.
Once you have the nuts picked and shelled, you can store in airtight ziplocks or storage containers. If you’re not planning to use right away, you can store in the refrigerator for up to 9 months or in the freezer up to 2 years! Not that they would last that long, at least not in my house!
I’ve only had these pecans for 2 weeks and so far I have already made pecan brownies, chopped some up for caramel apples, and have so many more plans for them. Some other ideas to use them for would be banana or pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, homemade granola or trail mix, add some to your salads, even crush some up and coat chicken or fish.