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Store’s pecans fail to live up to past standard

December 17th, 2008 · 4 Comments · Food selection

Holiday baking has me thinking of my dad. As I previously noted, Dad liked pecans (understandable for a Southern boy), and for the past few years he has treated his daughters at Christmastime to 2 pounds of shelled pecans from Sunnyland Farms in Albany, Georgia.

I thought those pecans were nice and tasted good, but extravagant, as they cost more than $30 for 2 pounds of the “extra fancy ‘Junior’ pecan halves” that he always sent. On the other hand, I never had trouble working my way through those 2 pounds.

When this holiday season came round, however, no pecans were in sight. I got a flier from Sunnyland but decided the nuts were indeed extravagant. When I first needed pecans this fall—for the topping on Thanksgiving sweet potatoes—I bought a pound of California pecans at the grocery store. I hesitated before I bought them. The pecan halves were a fairly dark brown, a sign they weren’t very fresh, according to Dad’s folk wisdom. So I bought the pieces instead, because they were paler. The first bite of the sweet potatoes immediately revealed that these nuts just weren’t of the same caliber as the Georgia pecans. I sighed at the memory.

Now that it’s holiday baking time at my house, I’m in a quandary. My usual cookies are usually pecan-laden. Although the nuts I have aren’t rancid, they just aren’t good. When I stirred up Chocolate Crinkle Cookies yesterday, I put in only 1/4 cup of those nuts rather than the usual 1/2 cup. And I decided it wasn’t worth it to make the Russian Tea Cakes with substandard pecans, since nuts are a major reason for those cookies. And toffee? Haven’t decided whether to make it yet or not. Again, a nut-driven issue.

I suppose I can get used to the grocery-store nuts’ flavor, but I’m not sure I want to give them as gifts. Sadly, toasting doesn’t turn them into the wonderfulness that was the Georgia pecans. Next year, I’m going to check out the pecans from my neighbors’ trees, although I gather that they don’t have much meat in their shells. And then, assuming those nuts are inadequate in number or flavor, I’m going to have to be extravagant and bake with nuts that are worth their price. Thanks, Dad. I think.

Photo credit: University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • FoodRenegade

    I am very sympathetic! I grew up collecting the pecans from my grandparent’s trees and shelling them myself. They were always flavorful, buttery, and fresh. After my grandparent’s died and we sold their property, I haven’t found a source of good pecans. I make do with grocery store pecans, but it’s just not the same.

  • Janet Majure

    I think this is a case where the next best thing to local is mail-ordered fresh from the source in season. Hope your grocery store pecans are better than mine, FoodRenegade!

  • Jennifer (Baklava Queen)

    Seems like the pecan harvest in general hasn’t been too good the past two years. A friend sent me Georgia pecans last year for Christmas, which was wonderful, but for most things I’ve had to just accept the inferior ones from the grocery. That’s partly why I was so adamant about getting piles of local nuts this year. The hicans aren’t quite the same as the pecans, but they are very good!

    Maybe you’ll just have to splurge a little for the very special treats once a year. :-) Even though the pecan farmers aren’t local to you, you’d still be supporting a local farmer in their local economy — next best thing!

  • Janet Majure

    Right you are, Jennifer. Thanks! And everybody, if you want to see someone who really lives locally, check out Jennifer’s blog. Just click on her name.