By Jennifer Dorsett
Pecans are a Texas culinary tradition that goes into overdrive at the holidays. Throughout November and December, we bake them in pies. We chop them for cookies and candy and, of course, toast them with cinnamon and sugar for a sweet holiday treat.
But did you know pecans are not only delicious, but NUT-ritious as well? Their decadent flavor disguises a heart-healthy nutritional profile.
An ounce of pecans, equivalent to 20 halves or about one handful, has 3 grams each of fiber and protein and 12 grams of “good” monounsaturated fat, according to the American Pecan Council. And pecans are one of the lowest-carb nuts with only 4 grams per serving.
The native nut contains several important vitamins and minerals, including 60 percent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily amount of manganese, which is essential for strong bones, cellular energy production and more.
Many of you, like me, probably engaged in a popular Texas pastime each fall while growing up—picking up and shelling pecans. After they’re shelled, families fill plastic zipper bags full and stockpile them in the freezer to be used throughout the year.
My grandmother always took the extra step of stashing several plastic bags inside a paper grocery sack and wrapping the paper bag in masking tape. She said that helped keep other smells out.
But what’s the best way to store the tasty treasures?
Turns out, grandma was right.
According to the Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service, the pecan’s higher oil content translates to a limited shelf life when shelled pecans are stored at room temperature. Over time, the nut’s natural oils can turn rancid, degrading the nutrition and flavor.
Instead, pecans should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer if they’re not going to be used within a couple of weeks of purchase.
If you’re keeping them in the refrigerator, store your pecans in a zippered plastic bag or airtight glass container. The fats in pecans make them more susceptible to absorbing flavors from other foods in the fridge, so AgriLife specialists recommend double-bagging pecans.
Pecans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to nine months, as long as they are kept in containers that block air and moisture.
When storing pecans for later use, the freezer is your best option.
Pecans stored properly in a freezer can keep for up to two years without loss of flavor or quality. AgriLife specialists noted they can be stored up to five years when kept at a temperature of zero degrees.
Since most home freezers aren’t kept that low, two years is a better rule of thumb to follow when storing pecans. Again, be sure to keep the nuts away from moisture and other odors by double-bagging or securely sealing before freezing.
Pecans in the shell may be stored in a cool, dry location for 6-12 months with no degradation of quality or flavor.
And talk about tasty! Pecans works well in a variety of recipes, from sweet to savory.
We have plenty of inspiration for you on Texas Table Top. Just click here to see some of our favorite recipes.
For even more nutty goodness, the American Pecan Council is chock-full of pecan recipes, too.
Looking to buy local? Texas Pecan Growers Association has you covered with a list of locations to purchase fresh Texas pecans near you.
Happy fall, y’all!