Pecans bring big flavor, versatility to the holiday table
By Benjamin Waldrum
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Dec. 11, 2015
- Pecans are a staple of holiday baking
- Shelled pecans keep for up to 2 years in the freezer
- A one-ounce serving of pecans contains 195 calories
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Some say peh-kahns’, others say pee’-kans. But everyone agrees that the humble pecan is irresistible and indispensable during the holiday season, said Carla Hadley, Miller County extension agent with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Although its pronunciation differs nationwide, the pecan is considered a staple of holiday baking.
“One of my earliest Christmas memories includes sitting at the kitchen table shelling pecans,” she said. “My grandfather taught me the one-to-one method: eat one, put one in the bowl – much to my grandmother’s dislike. Luckily, we had enough at the end for our Christmas treats.”
Besides eating out of hand, Hadley’s family would use the shelled pecans to make cakes, pies, and candy. Some were for the family, but most were for friends and neighbors.
Choosing quality pecans makes all the difference.
Pecans in the shell are the most economical, said Hadley. Choose pecans that are clean and free of splits, cracks, stains, or holes. They should feel heavy for their size. When purchasing shelled pecans, look for plump nutmeats that are fairly uniform in color and size. “Generally speaking, a golden brown color will give you the best pecan,” she said.
A good rule of thumb when purchasing pecans is that a pound of in-shell pecans will yield approximately two and one-quarter cups of nutmeat. And every pound of nutmeat requires two and a half pounds of good-quality pecans.
Purchase halves for garnishes, and pieces for any other baking needs. Pieces will be cheaper than halves, and will save on preparation time in the kitchen.
When stored properly, unshelled pecans will hold their freshness for up to two years in the freezer. Not only does shelling the nuts reduce their bulk before freezing, but it also helps the pecans resist the effects of insects and aging for much longer. Shelled or unshelled pecans may be kept refrigerated in airtight containers for about nine months.
Besides being tasty, pecans are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. They contain about the same amount of fat as other nuts. A one-ounce serving of pecans, or about 20 pecan halves, contains 195 calories – just enough to snack on.
“Though I wouldn’t blame you for sneaking one or five out of the bowl,” said Hadley.
For more information about Arkansas pecans and holiday baking, contact your county extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service