Saturday, November 03, 2012

It's Fall, Y'all

Fall in our yard means falling leaves, brush pile fires, and, sometimes, pecans. (That's PEE-cans, rhymes with BEE-hands.)

I don't know much about pecans...we've had these 3.5 pecan trees in our yard for the 12+ years we've lived here, but I've never really been a nut person. When recipes say *nuts optional, I use my option to leave them out. The squirrels liked them better than I did, so I left them to them.

A few years back sometime I discovered I enjoyed baking for the Holidays, but we wouldn't eat everything I made so I asked around and found out some of my family's favorite things and started baking/making things to give to them. A couple of the recipes called for nuts, and they liked me to not leave the nuts out, lol.
It was then we started battling the squirrels for the pecans.

I didn't know when the pecans were "done", so I waited for them to fall on the ground, and soon discovered that apparently the squirrels got to them first, still on the tree, and they'd nibble and gnaw on the nuts, then throw the rest of the half eaten nut on the ground.

Some years it seemed like the tree didn't make any pecans at all, or else the squirrels hoarded every one of them instead of some and wasting the rest.

So I was having to buy my pecans from the grocery store, which really sucked, when I should have been able to get all I wanted for free!  Last year I waited too long and my local stores were sold out of cooking nuts and I had to buy a can of roasted party pecans to top my sweet potato souffle.

This year our big tree was loaded with pecans. Maybe even more than the squirrels could deal with. We don't know why there were so many this year...not complaining, but if we knew why, maybe we could replicate in future years.

I saw the green husk or shell that the pecans grew in were opened, like a flower, and the pecans were just hanging there like they wanted to be picked. So, we picked.

J and I picked this little basket full one afternoon last week. I only meant to pick a few, what I thought I'd need for cooking, but they were just there, waiting to be picked, and we just kept picking and picking.

Sometime after that we were in the grocery store and I happened to see the prices of pecans. Twelve ounces of shelled pecans were running $7.00 at one store, and $9.99 at another! (Or maybe the $7.00 bag wasn't shelled?)  At any rate, ridiculously expensive!

I said then we needed to be out picking up all the pecans we can get while the gettin's good! I can freeze some for later, and maybe sell any extra.

A few days ago there was a weather system come through; we got an arctic wave something or other, while Hurricane Sandy skidded up the coast. At any rate, we were under high wind warnings for like three days straight.
We lost a good many tree limbs, and one hit and tore the power line away from the house again, but it also shook out a ton of pecans from the trees.

The boys went out yesterday and picked up another basket and some full.  I have been working on cracking/shelling them. It's a boring and tedious job so I can only stand to do so much at a time, but so far I've gotten two pounds shelled!
According to the web, that's just about $30.00 worth of raw Georgia pecans. That's so crazy!

Can't sell these, at least. Ryan's already requested a pecan pie, and I want to try the cinnamon/sugared roasted pecans. Plus what I use in making sweet potato souffle for Thanksgiving and in the loaf of banana bread I make my brother-in-law for Christmas.

Fall also means apples...should also be free apples, but my Dad's apple trees in his fruit orchard got "bit" by frost in the early Spring and didn't make any apples this Fall. (Or so he says.)  He stayed in Florida this Spring/Summer instead of coming up to his Georgia house like he usually does, and a lot of his fruit didn't do well or anything, and black bears ate the pears.

I need to learn about fruit trees, too, as well as pecan trees, so I can go take care of them myself - and fight bear for pears, lol!

Anyway, a few years ago, when the apples were producing good, I took Mom a recipe for crockpot apple butter. Ryan loves apple butter, and that recipe was easy, and Mom had a ton of apples to have to do something with, so she got started making apple butter, and made it every year for a few years after that. She gave jars of it to...well, everybody I guess!  We still have several around here we haven't gotten to yet.

We also like applesauce, so since everyone is apparently well stocked on apple butter, I thought we'd try making applesauce for a change. Only, there was no apples! Boooo :(

Aldi recently had a 3lb bag of Gala and Granny Smith apples for $1.99, so I got a couple bags of those. I had found a recipe online that only called for 4 apples, to be made as a snack or side dish, rather than a mega recipe for perserving. That was good for me to experiment with so if I messed it up or didn't like it, it wouldn't be a big waste.

At a suggestion from a friend in a chat group who also made some homemade applesauce, I used 3 Gala apples, which are sweet, with 1 Granny Smith, for a bite of tartness. Wasn't sure how it would turn out, if it was enough sugar, but it came out right about perfect.

I say right about, the only thing was I don't think I boiled it quite long enough, so when I mashed it, they were more lumpy than smooth, like we're used to, but the taste was just like out of a jar from the store, without all the corn syrup and preservatives.

Kroger had a 2-day sale at Halloween, 10lb of Gala apples for $10 so I bought some more of those, and still had most of the bag of Granny Smiths so I made 6 half-pints of applesauce today. It took 9 Gala apples and 3 Granny Smiths.
I would have made more but I got tired of peeling and cutting apples. I'll make some more in a couple days.

And, last but not least, Fall also means Homemade Vegetable Soup on cold, windy days. Mmmm!