Pecans- truly a family tradition.

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going down to Savannah, Georgia, for the National Pecan Shellers spring meeting.  It was a lot of fun, and it was also very informative.  The one thing that has always struck me about this small (in comparison to other tree nuts) industry is that the majority of the people in attendance, as I, have grown up in the business of pecans.  Pecans, like country music, truly are as Hank Jr. would say, “A Family Tradition.”

Also, like the country music industry, the pecan industry is changing.  Some of the changes are great.   The processing of pecans has certainly come a long way.  What used to take a week or so, is now done in a day’s time.  Gone are the days when families would sit by the radio in the evenings and shell pecans.  This is the way my grandfather shelled pecans for our company back in the early Twenties.  He would take pecans around to the different houses and leave them a sack of nuts.  Then, he would go back and pick up the shelled nuts.  However, for small shellers like my family (a little over a million pounds of pecans shelled this past season), those changes are coming with considerable cost.  I was really touched by the passion in the voices and struck also by the sadness of those, like us,  who feel like we no longer have a voice or a “dog” left in the fight. Why? Because like my dad and uncle who own our company, it is all they have ever known, and the changes ahead can’t help but have an impact on our family’s business and theirs.

Let’s be honest.  America was founded by those who dared to dream of a better life-  those men and women who did not sit ideally by and let their futures be dictated by the monarchy of their motherland.  However, to me, and granted I am no business genius (don’t pretend to be) or economist, I feel like that is exactly what is happening to the small, family pecan processors and their companies. Our voices have been quieted.  Now, there are lots of arguments both for and against these changes.  And, I am not so closed minded to not see that lots of people will perhaps benefit from the changes (at least that is of what many are trying to convince themselves) . However again, at what cost. And let us not forget China’s involvement.  I am thrilled that the Chinese have discovered and enjoy consuming pecans, but that one variable is huge.  Cause no business degree or not, I understand the very basic of any business- supply and demand. This has caused in-shell pecan prices to soar, and has left the “little guy” plenty sore!  Enough of all that business stuff. It is depressing.

There are many families that my parents and uncle and aunt have grown very close to from this association.  These are the kind of friends that you may only see once or twice a year, but when you do get together, it is like no time has passed. These friends who come from different parts of the country. The kind of friend that you would call for help if need be, and they would be willing to do what they could to help you. (and they have) To me, that is the greatest gift of this business and other small family businesses.  The stories they can tell, and do.  They are priceless. You wouldn’t believe them unless you heard them first hand.  It is my hope that the stories will continue, and that maybe one day my children, nieces, nephews, or cousins will be a part of the new stories and that the pecan industry will continue to be a “Family Tradition.”

A Trip Down Memory Lane- Songs that remind me of another place and time.

It never ceases to amaze me the power that words have on my life.  Words have the power to uplift me, but they also have the potential to break me down.  So much for “sticks and stones,” people. A great example of this WORD POWER is in songs.  I bet if you closed your eyes and thought about it, you can remember eventful times in your life and along with them,  songs that accompany those memories.  This activity is quite easy for me.  I think because when I hear certain songs the words come crashing into my mind like waves into the shore. So, take a trip down memory lane with me ( gas prices have dropped, so it won’t cost too much), and then think for yourself.  A few stops for me on this musical highway of life are as follows:

  • “MOMMA’S DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE COWBOYS” This tune by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings was an anthem of sorts that we sang along to on a trip out west in the late seventies with my parents.  We traveled from coast-to-coast that summer.  My daddy would be up in the driver’s seat of our RV, and I would be standing behind him, and we would sing along with these two modern-day outlaws. It was awesome.

  • “THE FIREMAN” by George Strait was a popular country tune during my high school days.  I honestly don’t know why it stands out in my mind so much. Maybe it was the carefree attitude of the song. When I hear it, I take a trip back to my teenage years. “They call me the fireman, that’s my name.  Making my rounds all over town, putting out old flames.” The fact that George Strait was an absolute dream to look at and listen to didn’t hurt!

  • “TAKE IT EASY” by the Eagles was a song that brings me back to my senior trip in 1985. We were freshly graduated and headed to Florida for our Senior cruise.  It was during that lengthy bus ride that my classmates and I would sing along to the Eagles, “Take it easy, take it easy.  Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.  Come on baby, don’t say maybe, you gotta know that your sweet love is going to save me.” Now, looking back in the rearview window of life, I realize that that time was some of the most freeing.

  • “LOVE CAN BUILD A BRIDGE” by The Judds takes me back to the early nineties.  I was freshly married, and my husband and I took a trip out West with two of our friends.  That was a crazy trip.  We rented this awful Ford van that honestly looked like we were a pack of pervs- you know the kind.  It is always a white van with tinted windows.  Anyway, we traveled from South Carolina to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in twenty-eight hours of straight driving.  It was exhausting. Anyway, when you are in the desert of Arizona miles away from anything, you better like country music because that is all you are going to get on the radio.  Yeah for me, I love country music. However, going from the North rim to the South rim of the Grand Canyon I swear we heard “Love can build a bridge between your heart and mine. Love can build a bridge, Don’t you think it’s time? Don’t you think it’s time?” about a million times.  I am only slightly exaggerating.  It got me to thinking though.  If someone would build a bridge over the Grand Canyon, it would seriously cut down the drive time, seriously.

  • ” DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA” makes a stop in this musical memory trip.  My kids and I were traveling from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Williams, Arizona, in 2005.  That whole radio thing all over again, so we had in the Charlie Daniels Band.  My kids and I sang loudly and proudly the words to this song as we made our way over the Hoover Dam.  “The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal, he was in a bind, cause he was way behind, so he was willing to make a deal.”  My ten-year old son was having a field day.  He got to say “bitch” and “dam” without getting in trouble.  He loved it.  I have to admit that I loved it, too. We had such a great time.  Those two were my whole life back then, and it was a wonderful trip for us all. Unfortunately, we left the tape in the Jeep rental, or was that lucky… Guess it depends on if you love hearing a song over and over and over again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnepPZChA5U I could continue on with this list, but I think you get the gist.  For those of us who love music, we can equate it to certain times in our lives.  For me, music is a form of therapy.  It allows me the opportunity to reflect and feel.  So, sit yourself down and think about this.  Now, what are some songs that cause you to stop, listen, and remember?

Saying I do- without the, I don’t think so… A Real Southern Wedding

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Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to marry the love of my life and my best friend. Okay, so I sound like all those women on “Say Yes to The Dress” and mine would have had to be the Atlanta division because of my thick Southern drawl. But, I can’t help myself. I have a heart filled with joy, and a wedding cake that was decorated with magnolia and dogwood blossoms made of fondant. Now, I am back from my honeymoon, and I think it is important that I share some of my “been there, done that” wisdom. So, what are some major do’s and don’ts when it comes to planning your second wedding?

• Do not wear white. My son asked me if I was wearing a white wedding dress, and since he was giving me away and my daughter was my maid of honor, I figure the jig was up as far as my purity. So, I wore champagne, and it was beautiful.

• Do make it a family affair. I am blessed with two precious children. (19 and 20) My new husband has two girls. (18 and 25) They were our wedding party. Let’s be honest- what forty-something wants to be a bridesmaid anyway? Gray hair and bridesmaid dresses don’t mix.

• Do not ask guests to bring gifts. This is a personal opinion, but I think it is a little tacky to ask people to bring gifts to a second wedding. What does one buy someone who has a house filled with lots of stuff? On my RSVP cards, I simply stated that my groom and I have been blessed and the gift of their presence was all that we asked.

• Do make it a special occasion for all guests. This wedding was more of a joyous celebration for me and mine. I wanted my guest to feel extra special and take part. After our vows, the congregation stood and sang a hymn. Not only did it get my guest involved in the service, it also was beautiful and most definitely a” joyful noise.”

• Do not speak softly during your vows. Not many of us enjoy silent movies. Heck, I don’t even like movies with subtitles. Make sure you speak loudly enough for your guest to hear you. Your vows are declarations, and they should be heard.

• Do Enjoy Yourself. I must admit that I remember little of my first wedding. My mom made all the decisions. She picked everything out. This time I planned and implemented most everything about my wedding. It was a reflection of my groom and me. People said it was one of the happiest weddings they have ever been to. That makes me smile, so – mission accomplished! Okay, this is my advice on second weddings. The most important thing to do is have a blast like only Southern folks can.

SINCE EVERYTHING ALWAYS TASTES LIKE CHICKEN ANYWAY, WHY NOT…

roasted chicken and vegetables

We have all heard it.  Someone tastes a piece of alligator, frog legs, squirrel, goat, etc. for the first time, and when asked they say, “it taste like chicken.” Well, since that is the case, we might as well just eat chicken.  So, I think it is appropriate to give you an awesome chicken recipe.  Since I am pecan girl, and pecans are like my superpower, I am going to have to throw some pecans somewhere in the recipe. Also, because it is about as hot as Hades right now, it is going to be something that will not require much cooking in that hot, summer kitchen.

 Pecan and Chicken Salad

What do you need:

8 ounces of chicken breast, boiled, baked, or picked up at your local grocer (That takes the stove completely out the equation.)

1 cup of celery, diced

4 apples, cubed

1 cup of Golden Kernel Pecan Pieces

1/2 cup of fat free mayo

1/2 cup of sour cream, reduced fat

Directions:

Mix the fat free mayo and reduced fat sour cream together.   (You still need to keep that girlish figure for your swimsuit.) Combine the ingredients except for the pecans. Add the pecan pieces to the combined ingredients just before you serve it, and mix well.  Get yourself a pretty piece of lettuce, and put the salad on top.  Then, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you garnish with more pecans. Enjoy…

 

 

 

 

Red or White- and I am not talking wine

I know, I know, this is a blog about pecans.  However, it is also my blog, so I have to use this platform to discuss some really important topics that I feel strongly about. Today’s topic is Red or White.  I bet your mind went directly to wine or which wine you prefer; however, I am actually talking about peanuts.  Yes, peanuts.  There are people like me who take their boiled peanut seriously.  It took me awhile and a few pressure pots later, but I consider myself an expert of sorts on the topic of turning green peanuts into a Southern delicacy that I often call summer supper, the boiled peanut. The thing is that people who eat peanuts with the fervor that I do have their preferences.  There are people like my brother-in-law, Jerry, who love the red skinned peanuts.  The man will eat them raw.  He tells me that he thinks they have a better flavor. My grandmama used to eat the little Spanish peanuts (she called them). They were red skinned and tiny. Well, I do eat red skinned peanuts. They are always the first ones out for the season, and I am not a patient girl.  For the most part,I enjoy them and just happy to have peanuts in season. However, to be perfectly honest, they are a hassle to open.  They are smaller which makes it more difficult, and those tiny ones my grandmama ate were just too much work. Later, near the end of July, all the stars are aligned, all the pieces of the puzzle are complete, and all is right with the world because white skinned peanuts are ready for consumption.  I celebrate this time of the year and think that some of those fireworks that are shot on the 4th of July should be put aside to mark this special occasion. It would probably scare you all if you knew how many peanuts I can eat in a season.  There are days when I have cramps in my fingers from opening the things.  I know that is sad. So, I am obsessed with boiled peanuts.  I admit it.  I figure that there are a lot worse things with which I could be so enamored.  So, the countdown is on for me.  I readily await the sign that says, “white skin peanuts available.”  So, when this country girl is asked,”red or white,”  she has to go with white. I wanted to give the guys from Carolina Peanut and Palmetto Peanut a shout out.  Thanks for growing these pieces of white gold all over your farmland.  It sure makes the air around Calhoun County smell like heaven when you all turn those peanuts! South Carolina Peanut FieldEvery story has a beginning… Peanut Red Skinned Peanuts  Peanut White Skinned Peanuts Many Peanuts In Shells For Sale At Farmers Market a whole lot of awesome

A picture is worth……….

You hear it all the time that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, I thought I would let this entry speak volumes.  The pictures were taken by Heather Harvey from Knoxville, Tennessee.  What a talented young lady!

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So, who is ready for some pecan pie or pecan tarts?

2 Great Desserts for the 4th of July

Ice Cream, Pound Cake, and the 4th of July

America is the land of the free and the brave. We are a proud nation filled with tradition. One such tradition is celebrating The Fourth of July with family, friends, fun, and of course, food. These two dessert recipes are absolutely delicious, and you would be proud to serve them at any celebration.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Ice Cream Assortment In White Bowls

Total Time: 5 hours

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Serves about 15

Ingredients:

 Ice Cream:

2 cup(s) whole milk

1 1/2 cup(s) brown sugar

4 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter

2 cup(s) half-and-half

2 cup(s) whipping cream

2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract

 

  Butter Roasted Pecans:

1 cup pecans, chopped

salt to taste

3 tablespoon(s) salted butter

 

Directions:

   Prepare Ice Cream: In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Place pan over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a simmer. Lower heat to medium and whisk mixture for 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Strain mixture into a large bowl and whisk in butter until combined; then incorporate half-and-half, cream, and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

   Butter and Salted Pecans: Take three teaspoons of salted butter and melt it in the microwave, mix it with pecan pieces. Place pecan pieces on a cookie sheet. In an oven preheated to 350 degrees, bake the pecan pieces for 5 minutes. Watch them carefully!!! Allow them to cool. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Pour ice cream mixture into ice-cream maker; process according to manufacturer instructions. Once ice cream’s made, stir in reserved pecans.

 

close up on pound cake

Too Easy Sour Cream Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (that’s

important)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar.

Add the sour cream and mix until completely blended.

No clumps of butter.

Sift the baking soda and flour together.

Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating in each egg one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a rack.

 

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. These butter pecan ice cream and pound cake will be a hit at any July 4th celebration. May we never forget that freedom is an honor and privilege to never take for granted. God Bless America!

Images from BIGSTOCK