Tuesday, October 08, 2013

It's Nut Time Again

Fall is giving Mississippi a preview of coming events. Cool mornings and evenings, a welcome relief from the humid temperatures.

Received my first catalog from Sunnyland Farms in Georgia. Again I turn each page hungrily anxious for my first autumn taste of pecans.

We enjoy the ride to nearby Raymond, Mississippi to a retail pecan grove  bursting with ripe nuts. Human pickers and machines gather pecans, sort them and place them in large bins inside the store. Inside the small frame building, the nuts are divided into the types of pecans and displayed. First time I visited I recall how confused I was with the differences in pecans. Wasn't there just a good pecan?  

 Each variety has a distinct taste and chew. Luckily, you can take a sample, crack it, and try it for the kind of taste sensation you prefer. Some of the kinds I recall from my last visit were Stuart, Cape Fear, Desirable, Forkert, and Excel.  Every year a new type appears.  If you can go to a grove in your area, choosing your favorite pecan taste is an education in itself.

Just as most everything else in the food world, Indians ate pecans. The word is Algonquin meaning " hard to crack, needing a stone to open" Maybe those early ones were hard to crack, but today, some, like the paper-shell type, can be cracked in the hand.  I think of the hickory nuts Mother loved. She used a hammer, put the nut on the sidewalk or a large stone, and hit several times. The result was a constant picking out of the meat which didn't want to give up its warm bed. Too much work for the rest of the family who stuck with pecans.

We've always ordered pecans in the shell and had them cracked there at the store. There's such pleasure to sit in front of the television set with a bowl of cracked pecans in your lap, picking off the shell. The act of working for the meat is satisfying. You're not eating them too fast, tasting slowly with delight. Not the same satisfaction as reaching for a handful of  shelled meats sitting ready in its tin.  Try it.

One occasion we sent cousins in Virginia 10 lbs of pecans, cracked. When they received the package they were horrified that the package had been through some melee to have broken the pecans. They almost complained to UPS before they called to verify the condition.

We in the South say pee Kahn', not Pee' kans.   Check the dictionary.