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If you are lucky enough to have pecan trees in your yard, you know what a thrill it is when, early in November, the pecans start hitting the ground!  Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a “Pecan Picker”!  We lived next door to my grandparents, who planted and nurtured many pecan trees…thus we picked and picked!  It always seemed like so much fun to me, sort of like a continuous Easter Egg Hunt.  I just loved walking with my grandfather (Paw-Paw) through the yard, behind houses, under houses, in the streets – picking every last pecan that fell.   Oh, how I loved Paw-Paw and all of the times that we spent together.  I would have followed him anywhere…

It is from Paw-Paw that I learned all the skills needed to be a vigilant “Pecan Picker”…

Be territorial!  This is very important…you better watch your turf or someone else will be picking your pecans!  And you can’t be shy about it…you have to be direct and almost rude if another picker is trying to pick your pecans – and they will, believe me! It is an unwritten rule that you never, ever go near another person’s yard to pick pecans, unless they tell you to…even in the street alongside their yard is questionable!  It makes me crazy when I see someone picking the pecans in “my” street…

That leads to the next strategy – you have to get up really early during pecan season to pick before the other pecan pickers come by…or when you wake up and look outside, the streets are bare – they beat you to it!!  But, if your yard is bare – you know that it wasn’t your neighbor or anyone else that plays by “the rules”…it was “outsiders” – those people who come from other areas of town to pick everyone’s pecans.  I can’t even give them the credit of being called a “pecan picker” because they really are thieves!  Sounds harsh and crazy, but true…I have found them all over my yard, sticking their arms through my gates, moving my trash cans and in my bushes looking for pecans.  You can run them off, but they will be back…

“Pecan Pickers” are a very particular (peculiar too!) group of people…and as years go by, it seems like this unique little group is slowly either dying out or tiring out – maybe a little of both.   But, not in my little world!  My children did not pick up this “skill”, but I am trying my best to “train” my grandchildren…seems to be working, because they love to walk with me and pick those wonderful golden nuggets!

After all of the pecans have been picked, you need to get to work – cracking and shelling or “peeling” them…that’s what Paw-Paw always called it – “Peeling Pecans”!  I always have my husband bring our pecans to Chastant Brother’s Feed Store to have them cracked (for a very small fee) them we shell them…makes things sooo much easier!

Then, you can put them in Zip Lock bags and store in the freezer until next pecan season…

Even though I picked and have enough pecans for a while, it wasn’t really a very good season…Not nearly the amount of pecans that we usually have.  But, not to worry!  I have plenty for the holidays – starting with Pecan Pralines….

This recipe is from my grandmother or “Maw-Maw”…The traditional “Cajun” or South Louisiana Praline seems to be more of a sugary – crunchy praline, different from the chewy – creamy pralines of the New Orleans area.  Now, I like and make both versions – but today, since I was thinking of Paw-Paw and his pecan picking, I also was thinking of Maw-Maw’s great pralines…

Ingredients:

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

5 tbsp water

1 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cup whole pecans

1 tsp vanilla

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In a heavy sauce pot, heat brown and white sugar and water over medium fire; Stir constantly until it comes to a boil.

Attach candy thermometer to side of pot and cook until temp reaches soft boil, stirring often.  (Whatever you do – DO NOT taste, like I did today!  I now have a giant blister on my upper lip from the boiling sugar…Lord!)

Add pecans and mix well.

Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool.

Pralines just say, “Merry Christmas” in our house!!

What a great way to end the 2011 Pecan Season…From Picking, Peeling to Pralines – Worked years ago for Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw – works for me today!  So much more to do…

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