December 19, 2008
Luckily for me and my family in York, SC (where my parents are from and where I spent many weekends growing up), most of the pecan trees all over town were full and plentiful this year. Every fall for as long as I can remember, my family in York is always anxious to see whether or not we’ll have any pecans for the year. Of course, we can always buy a one pound bag for $7.99 from the store, but that seems so absurd to us given that for years we always got our own pecans for free from the trees on our family’s land.
I’m not sure why, probably due to changing weather patterns, but the pecan trees don’t produce every year. So this year when I found out that the trees were loaded, I made sure when I went home for Thanksgiving to gather as many pecans as I could get to use in my baking and to give some away as holiday gifts.
As a part of my immersion into cooking, I love to learn about the history and nutritional value of foods. It’s fascinating and it gives me a greater appreciation for what I’m eating. The National Pecan Shellers Association has an informative site all about pecans. Pecans are native to North America, in fact it’s the only native American tree nut, and the name is actually a Native American word (Algonquin) that described all nuts “requiring a stone to crack.” Pecans make a healthy snack with their many antioxidants, particularly Vitamin E, and the nut has more than 18 other vitamins and minerals and contains heart-healthy levels of fats (60 percent monounsaturated, 30 percent polyunsaturated, 10 percent saturated).
This holiday season, I wanted to make gifts to give to some of my friends instead of just picking up a gift card, a tube of smell-good hand cream, or something else from the mall. While gifts that you make yourself can be a little more time consuming than something you get from the store, handmade and homemade gifts have a unique and warm appeal. So, I decided to make roasted curry spiced pecans and put them in 8 oz. canning jars that I decorated simply, offering my friends not only a tasty snack, but also a bit of the nostalgia I have from my youth and my parents’ home town.
You can also make these spiced pecans for yourself or as hors d’oeuvres for a party. I was pretty pleased with how they turned out and my friends who received them as gifts really enjoyed them. One friend in particular asked for more! The curry powder gives the pecans a little extra kick over regular salted nuts. Plus, they’re pretty easy and quick to make. The only thing that takes time is shelling the pecans if you have to do so. However, most people probably don’t have access to unshelled pecans. So not having to crack the nuts is one benefit to buying them packaged from the store. As for me I love cracking and shelling pecans. It brings back holiday memories.
Roasted Curry Spiced Pecans
2 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pecan halves in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Stir pecans well to coat with the oil. Sprinkle the curry powder and salt over the oiled pecans and stir well to coat.
Spread the spiced pecans evenly in one layer on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet and place in the oven for 15 – 18 minutes. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature or slightly warm. Store the pecans in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Note: If you do have unshelled pecans, you can successfully get them to come out whole instead of in broken pieces by placing them in a large pot of water and bringing them to a boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pot from the heat and drain the unshelled pecans. Let them cool. Then carefully crack and shell them releasing whole pecan halves.