2015 Pecan Harvest Begins

Our pecan orchard is in warp speed this time of year gathering our fresh Louisiana pecans signifying the start of the  2015 pecan harvest at Little Eva Plantation.  Within the last previous two to three weeks the orchard floor has been cleaned of many broken limbs clearing the ground beneath each tree which enable the pecan harvesters

Pecan harvester picking pecans at Little Eva Plantation.

Pecan harvester picking pecans at Little Eva Plantation.

to not miss a pecan as these machines go around and around each tree gathering nuts beneath the trees.  Each variety is  typically harvested  individually. – Candy variety is an earlier maturing nut and is usually always harvested first.  Then comes Elliott, Desirable, Branch, Stuart, Caddo, Sumner and Melrose.

When the pecan harvester’s bin is full, the nuts are dumped into a pecan wagon.

Pecan wagon loaded and ready to head to the cleaning plant.

Pecan wagon loaded and ready to head to the cleaning plant.

Next stop is the cleaning plant.  Once the filled pecan wagon arrives at the cleaning plant, the nuts are dumped into a pit and are then carried by conveyors and various elevators up and down and around and through the dirt machine where dirt clods and large sticks and other debris are removed and blown into our trash trailer.   Next the pecans make their way to the Savage in-shell color sorter.  Savage Sorters employ high-resolution color cameras and highly specialized color-sorting software to identify and separate stick-tight nuts and other light debris. In a split second the machine uses a small blast of air to separate them out from the good-product flow. The sorting criteria is completely adjustable on the simple-to-use touch-screen computer terminal. Even novice computer users can learn the simple tasks involved.  After color sorting, the pecans proceed to the Savage pecan sizer where they are sized and then bagged in bulk bags and labeled as to variety, size, date of harvest, and what section of orchard the bagged pecans came from.  Filled super bags are then moved into the warehouse.  Next week I will blog about the cracking and shelling process.

 

 

 

Caramel Popcorn Pecan Crunch

Caramel Popcorn Pecan Crunch will be a delicious treat to bring to tailgate parties or family gatherings to enjoy while watching the weekend football games.  This easy recipe would also be a great idea to use for tasty gifts for the upcoming holidays.  Find an attractive gift bag, fill it with pecan crunch,  attach the recipe to the top and present it to the special people on your list.  Pecans added to any recipe contribute to the nutrition value of that dish.  Pecans provide antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and heart health properties.

Ingredients

20 cups popped popcorn

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups large pecan pieces

1 tsp soda

Directions

  1. Combine brown sugar, butter, salt and corn syrup in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil.  Continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla and soda, stirring quickly.  Pour over the popped popcorn and pecan pieces that have been placed into a large oven safe pan.  Mix well.
  4. Bake for 1 hour in a 250 degree F oven.  Stir every 20 minutes.
  5. Cool on large cookie sheets and ENJOY!

*Variation – Chocolate chips could be added for an extra  taste for all the chocolate lovers.

Caramel Popcorn Pecan Crunch

Caramel Popcorn Pecan Crunch

 

Clementine Hunter and Pecan Gifts

Natchitoches pecans is proud to announce that The Clementine Hunter Collection will be available to order on our website in early October.  This unique collection will make great gifts for the upcoming holiday season along with our signature gourmet pecan gifts, pecan candies, and other pecan products for everyone on your gift list.

Mugs and Dinnerware

Mugs and Dinnerware

Doug Gitter created Gitter Gallery and The Clementine Hunter Collection because he wanted to share his love of contemporary American self-taught art with others and wanted to take artwork which was once affordable and make it affordable again so that others could enjoy a piece of American history. The hand-painted ceramic platters and bowls and dinnerware are 100% handmade and no two pieces are exactly alike. Each piece has its own distinctive shape whose textured surface allows you to feel the passion in Clementine’s work. These pieces can be hung on the wall, displayed on a bookshelf, or used as favorite serving pieces for any occasion. All ceramics are food, microwave and dishwasher safe. Each of the Hand-Embroidered Pillows and Linen Hand Towels are works of art also.

Pillows and Linen Hand Towels

Pillows and Linen Hand Towels

The pillows are embroidered on 100% organic cotton. It takes 2 artisans two weeks to create one beautiful pillow and each pillow is unique because each artisan has their own stitching style. Each hand towel is silk screened then embroidered by hand on 100% linen and is beautifully presented in a gorgeous organdy reusable gift pouch.

With every purchase from The Clementine Hunter Collection, a portion of the proceeds goes toward preservation and interpretation of the Clementine Hunter House at Melrose Plantation, a National Historic Landmark.

Clementine Hunter is Louisiana’s most famous artist and considered one of the most important self-taught American artists of the 20th century. Her work can be seen in the Smithsonian Institute, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, the Oprah Winfrey Collection in Chicago, and countless other museums and private collections across the country. Clementine, called Tebe by her family, was born at Hidden Hill Plantation in 1886. Hidden Hill was renamed Little Eva Plantation in the 1950’s. She moved to Melrose Plantation in 1902 where she lived the rest of her days until she died on January 1, 1988 around the age of 101.

A self-taught artist without formal training, Clementine produced colorful paintings that depicted her memories of life on a southern plantation. She worked in the cotton fields and pecan orchards, and was later a domestic servant in the Big House at Melrose Plantation. Clementine began painting “about 1940”. She would paint scenes of baptisms, weddings, zinnas, fishing, playing cards, cotton picking and pecan picking. She would remember things and then sketch them out and paint them.

We are especially fond of Clementine’s Pecan Picking pieces since Natchitoches Pecans grows and offers for sale top quality Louisiana pecans grown on Little Eva Plantation. According to Clementine, “I always liked to pick pecans. It was hard work. You had to stoop over a lot. You had to gather at least three hundred pounds or better a day to make it worthwhile. Extra money was made by pecan picking. Life was hard, but if you toughed it out you could get by. During the times when money was scarce and they wasn’t too much to eat, a pinch of snuff helped kill the appetite.”

As Christmas and Thanksgiving season is just around the corner, it is not too early to start considering gifts for those on your gift list. Go to www.natchitochespecans.com secure website to view our selection of fresh Louisiana pecan halves, cracked pecans, pecan gift tins, Clementine for the Holidays wooden pecan gift box, and many other pecan items.  Corporate orders are welcome.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie with Chantilly Cream

This pecan pie recipe was recommended by Charlotte Lancaster. She says, “Baking the pie in a cake pan instead of a pie pan means it holds its shape, as well as its delicious contents and the buttery crust is awesome!” The decision to use fresh Louisiana pecans will be an excellent choice.

Dough Ingredients
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, salted
2 Tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ of a whole egg (Vigorously beaten until frothy – reserve the other half for the sweet potato    filling)
2 Tablespoons cold milk
1 cup all-purpose flour

Sweet Potato Filling Ingredients
2 to 3 sweet potatoes (or enough to yield 1 cup cooked pulp), baked
¼ cup packed, light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sugar
½ egg, vigorously beaten until frothy (reserved   above)
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pecan Pie Syrup Ingredients
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup dark corn syrup
2 small eggs
1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
¾ cup pecan pieces or halves

Directions for Dough
1. Place the softened butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer; beat on high speed until the mixture is creamy. Add the ½ egg and beat 30 seconds. Add the milk and beat on high speed 2 minutes. Add the flour and beat on medium speed 5 seconds, then on high speed just until blended, about 5 seconds more (over mixing will produce a tough dough).

2. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a 5 inch patty about ½ inch thick. Lightly dust the patty with flour and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. (The dough will last up to one week refrigerated.)

3. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8 to ¼ inch. Very lightly flour the top of the dough and fold it into quarters. Carefully place dough in a greased and floured 8 inch round cake pan (1 ½ inches deep) so that the corner of the folded dough is centered in the pan. Unfold the dough and arrange it to fit the sides and bottom of pan; press firmly in place. Trim edges. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

Directions for the Sweet Potato Filling
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer until the batter is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not over beat. Set aside.

Directions for the Pecan Pie Syrup
Combine all the ingredients except the pecans in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly on slow speed of electric mixer until the syrup is opaque, about 1 minute; stir in pecans and set aside.

To assemble:
1. Spoon the sweet potato filling evenly into the dough-lined cake pan.

2. Pour the pecan syrup on top.

3. Bake in a 325 degree F oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 ¾ hours. (Note: The pecans will rise to the top of the pie during baking.)

Cool and serve with Chantilly Cream. Store the pie at room temperature for the first 24 hours, then (in the unlikely event there is any left) refrigerate.

Chantilly Cream Ingredients
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon brandy
1 teaspoon Gran Marnier
¼ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons dairy sour cream

Directions for Chantilly Cream
Refrigerate a medium-size bowl and beaters until very cold. Combine cream, vanilla, brandy and Gran Marnier in the bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Add the sugar and sour cream and beat on medium just until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. DO NOT OVER BEAT. (Over beating will make the cream grainy, which is the first step leading to butter. Once grainy you can’t return it to its former consistency, but if this ever happens, enjoy it on toast!)

Makes about 2 cups

From Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen

Roasted Pecan Butter Pecan Pie (Louisiana Cajun)

 

Charlotte Lancaster shared this recipe with  us. The thing that separates this pecan pie recipe from most others is the use of GROUND roasted pecans in the filling, in addition to the usual pecan halves. Besides enhancing the pecan flavor, the ground pecans also give the filling a slightly less “goopy” texture.

Dough Ingredients                                        

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut up
¼ cup ice water

Pecan Filling Ingredients                         

½ cup pecan pieces or halves, dry roasted until dark
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves

Directions for Dough
1. Sift 1 cup of the flour and the salt into a large bowl. Add butter, and working quickly with a light touch, cut butter into the flour with a spoon and fingertips until mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add ice water and stir until well blended.

2. Form the dough into a ball and place on a flat surface floured with the remaining 3 tablespoons flour. With a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/8 inch. Place an ungreased 8 ½ inch round pie pan face down on top of the dough and cut around the pan, leaving a ¾ inch border. Lightly flour the top of the dough and fold it in quarters.

3. Carefully place dough in the pie pan, with the points of the folded dough centered. Unfold dough and line the pan bottom and sides, gently pressing dough into place and draping a little over the rim. Flute the edges. Refrigerate prepared pie shell until ready to use.

Directions for Pecan Filling
1. Process roasted pecans in a food processor until they become a relatively smooth butter, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping sides down as needed with a rubber spatula.

2. Place eggs in a medium-size bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed a few seconds until frothy. Add sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla extract, salt and pecan butter. Beat on medium speed a few seconds until well mixed, pushing sides down as needed.

3. Stir in the unroasted pecan halves. Pour mixture into prepared pie shell.

4. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake until filling is browned on top and crust on edges is lightly browned, about 40 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

** Helpful Hint: To save time use a frozen pie crust.

 

Preparing for Pecan Harvest

In just a short few weeks pecan harvest will begin at Little Eva Plantation.  There are many tasks to be completed prior to the familiar site of our orange Savage pecan harvesters circling around and under the pecan trees.

Picking pecans with pecan harvester.

Picking pecans with pecan harvester.

Our workers are continually picking up limbs throughout the growing season and taking them to what we call “master piles”.  At the beginning of each growing season,  we try and locate an empty area to start a limb pile as we know that this pile will continue to enlarge as limbs that have fell from wind damage, lightning, or pruning practices are added to it throughout the spring and summer months.

"Master" pile of pecan limbs

“Master” pile of pecan limbs

These piles will be burned after the harvesting is done and after the trees have shed all their leaves from fall frosts.  If the piles were burned before the trees have lost their leaves, it would be a high probability that the heat from the burning limb piles could damage the leaves of the surrounding trees.  It is important to maintain healthy foliage well into fall as the trees are storing energy for the next years pecan crop.

After the large limbs are moved, a limb rake is pulled up each row of trees to gather up small limbs and debris.  Guess this is like “sweeping” the floor – the orchard floor.  This completed brings on the mowing with the bush hog.  Once bush hogging is finished the orchard floor looks perfectly clean, neat, and tidy.

Now it’s time for the pecan harvesting equipment to be inspected and serviced so as to try and prevent unnecessary breakdowns as it is very critical that harvest be completed as quickly as possible.  The tractors, pecan harvesters, and the pecan shaker are gone over with a fine tooth comb.  Tires are checked on the pecan wagons and any dry rotted or flat tires are replaced or repaired.

Pecan Shaker maintenance

Pecan Shaker maintenance

Pecan wagon loaded

Pecan wagon loaded

 

On to the warehouse to check out all the dump pits, elevators, dirt machine, stick machine, various electric motors, air compressors, the Savage In-Shell sorter, pecan cracker, and pecan sheller.  As one can see it is much preparation that goes into getting prepared for each year’s pecan harvest.

 

Famous Pecan Pie

Famous Pecan Pie - Absolutely delicious!

Why is this a famous pecan pie?  The name “famous” for this pecan pie is named such as this was a recipe from Lindy Boggs.  Today is the two year anniversary of Lindy’s death.  In 1976 Mrs Boggs became the first woman to preside over a Democratic National Convention.  Three years earlier, she had become the first woman from Louisiana elected to the House.  Lindy succeeded her husband in the House of Representatives after he was killed in a plane crash.  Lindy Boggs went on to serve nine terms on Capitol Hill, notably as a champion of women’s rights.  She died July 27, 2013 at the age of 97.

Ingredients

2 frozen pie crusts

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup white Karo syrup

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch each cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt

2 cups shelled pecans

Directions

Take crusts from freezer while preparing other ingredients.  When thawed prick edges and bottom.  Brush with butter.

Slightly beat eggs.  Stir in sugar, butter, white syrup, pinch of salt.  Beat.  Add vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon.  Gently stir in pecans.  Place in pie shells.

Bake in 350°F oven for 40 to 50 minutes. (Second pie can be frozen if you need only one pie.)  Yield: 12-16 servings.

Famous Pecan Pie - Absolutely delicious!

Famous Pecan Pie – Absolutely delicious!

 

 

Annual Pecan Conference Held

The annual Tri-State Pecan Conference was held in Natchez, Mississippi in mid June.  Growers from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi kicked off the meeting with an orchard tour of The Company Farm pecan orchard located in Baskin, Louisiana.  This farm is a square mile or 640 acres, and is being managed by Tom Childress.  Childress talked about his management practices for the orchard, the current varieties that are in the orchard, and the future goal of starting a hedging regime.  He says that the number one benefit, for him, is that hedging helps him achieve a more effective spray program.  Childress says he is trying to choose and plant the right pecan varieties to control problems, such as scab, because you “can’t spray your way out of a problem, you have to plant your way out.”

Lunch was provided in the orchard and then the group headed back to Natchez for business meetings and an evening reception.  The second day consisted of educational seminars and the always much anticipated pecan guesstimate of the season from Ben Littlepage.  He estimated that the U.S. crop would total 283 million pounds.  Below is a state by state estimated prediction:

Alabama………………..19 million

Arizona………………….25 million

Arkansas………………… 1 million

California………………..  6 million

 Florida…………………….0.5 million

Georgia…………………80.0 million

Kansas……………..0.5 million

Louisiana…………………4 million

Mississippi…………….. 1 million

New Mexico…………..70 million

N. Carolina…………..0.5 million

Oklahoma…………….35 million

S. Carolina…………..0.5 million

Texas…………………. 40 million

Tips For Baking Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is considered a staple at holiday meals in the South.  This irresistible amazing tasty pie is even found in lyrics of the song “Chicken Fried” by the famous Southern band – The Zac Brown Band –

Beneath the shade of a Georgia pine
And that’s home you know
Sweet tea, pecan pie and homemade wine
Where the peaches grow

There are numerous pecan pie recipes all across the web.  Simply browse and choose one to your liking.  Below are tips to follow that will enable you to create an awesome pecan pie –

  • Mind your eggs.  Extra large eggs tend to be too much for pecan pie, and medium just isn’t enough.  Opt for large eggs.
  • Coat your measuring cup with oil, or spritz with non-stick cooking spray before measuring your corn syrup.
  • Cut calories by substituting a reduced calorie corn syrup, such as Karo’s Lite corn syrup instead of the regular kind.
  • Toast the pecans for enhanced flavor and only use fresh pecans.
  • Don’t use a blender or a mixer.  Use a whisk and a wooden spoon.  Hand mix only – and don’t beat it to death!  Many pecan pies end up runny due to over-beating.
  • Shield edges of pie with foil about halfway through cooking time to prevent over-browning.
  • Let the pie cool completely before slicing, as this will allow the filling to set completely.
  • Pie is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out fairly clean.  The filling may seem a bit jiggly as a whole, but it will continue cooking a bit even after removed from the oven  – so you don’t want to overcook it.
Pecan Pie - Oh how delicious!

Pecan Pie – Oh how delicious!

 

 

 

Greatest Dad Give Away – Rules

Here are the rules for the Greatest Dad Give Away contest for 2015.

  • Contest runs May 27, 2015 through June 18, 2015
  • All submission become property of Natchitoches Pecans.
  • Natchitoches Pecans reserves the right to edit and/or reject any submission in whole or in part.
  • Contestants must be 18 years or older to participate.
  • Natchitoches Pecans will select a winner and post on the Natchitoches Pecans facebook page on June 19, 2015 at 8pm.
  • All decisions are final at the sole discretion of Natchitoches Pecans.
  • This contest and/or rules can be changed without notice to the public.
  • Natchitoches Pecans reserves the right to cancel this contest without notice to the public.