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.

 

 

 

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

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.

 

2012 Pecan Harvest at Little Eva Plantation

It is time to start picking up those tasty pecans that are grown here in the heart of Louisiana! The 2012 pecan crop looks great. Mark had planned to start picking the Candy variety on Monday but when he went to start the pecan shaker it would not make a sound. Further investigation revealed a burned out relay switch. Got the part this am, Mark installed it right after lunch, and off he went in search of Candy trees to shake!! Pecan harvesters will be running tomorrow. Filled pecan wagons should be headed to the cleaning plant sometime Thursday. We should have new crop pecans in the pecan house by the weekend – YES!!!

Natchitoches Pecans Hosts Fellow Pecan Growers at the 20l2 Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show


Mark Swanson - 2012 Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show

Mark Swanson
2012 Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show

Family-run Natchitoches Pecans welcomes growers from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and performs demo of its cutting-edge pecan-sorting processes.

 

Natchitoches Pecans, Inc. recently participated in the Tri-State Pecan Convention & Trade Show, an annual meeting for pecan growers from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana—and this year, the family owned and operated company hosted part of the show at its own orchard.

Growers come to this yearly convention for recommendations about fertilization, information on new products, and advice about what to look out for in the coming year. One of its features this year was a demonstration at the Natchitoches Pecans orchard, which utilizes a new machine from Savage Equipment that sorts in-shell pecans by color, automatically picking out the bad ones.

“One of the biggest attractions of the Tri-State Pecan Show is that it gives you an opportunity to see a different operation, and to get a different perspective on how to problem-solve and work through the issues you encounter as a pecan grower,” said Natchitoches Pecans co-owner Julie Swanson. “The sorting machinery we’ve implemented at our orchard has really improved our efficiency, so we were thrilled to get a chance to show other growers how it works.”

One hundred and sixty growers—the majority of the trade show’s attendees—attended the demonstration, which was followed by a catered barbecue lunch served in Natchitoches Pecans’ orchard.

The two-day show concluded the next day with the release of 2012’s first Pecan Crop estimate. Based on Tri-State Grower member input, the projection for the year is 265 million pounds—a number considered encouraging by experts, in view of the drought experienced by growers in the region last year.

Swanson was cheerful about Natchitoches Pecans’ prospects for the year. “We’ve had good pollination, and we’re happy with how things are shaping up this season,” she said. “So far so good!”
ABOUT NATCHITOCHES PECANS, INC.

Established in 1987, Natchitoches Pecans, Inc. is a family owned and operated pecan orchard. Mark Swanson sees to the everyday operations, his wife, Julie, takes care of Little Eva’s Pecan Store and the Internet and mail-order business, and their mothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews all help wherever needed. Natchitoches Pecans is proud to provide high-quality, gourmet Louisiana pecans for all of its customers. For more information, or to place an order online, visit www.natchitochespecans.com.