Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crispy Brined Pecans

When I saw this odd gadget in a back corner of my in-laws' kitchen cupboard I squealed with delight. And since they hadn 't used it in ages, I got to take it home with me. Why the excitement, you ask? This contraption is a pecan-cracker, and the beauty of the thing is that if you set it correctly, it will crack the shell so that it is easy to remove and leaves a whole intact nutmeat.

Here in Georgia I've been getting bags of pecans in my farm box each week, and have accumulated quite a stash. Up until now I've only had a hand cracker. The "new" cracker entered my life at just the right time; I had a recipe in mind, Spiced Brined Pecans. I'd seen it on the Food 52 site and the method was so intriguing I just had to try the recipe.

Food 52 is the brainchild of Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs and is one of the most fun and useful food sites on the internet. Not only does it have weekly themed recipe contests with really good recipes, a wildly entertaining annual cookbook tournament, and a cool shop, there's also a helpful forum that provides answers to cooking questions.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe here.

- I increased the recipe by half, using 3 cups of pecans instead of the recipe's 2 cups.

- The recipe is quick to throw together unless you are cracking 3 cups of pecans. Even with my spiffy cracking machine, it took a bit of time to separate the nuts from the shells. Of course, it would be a cinch if you started with already-shelled nuts.

- My nuts soaked in the brine for 6 hours.

- I baked the nuts for for 9 1/2 hours. My upper oven doesn't go as low as 150 degrees, so I put the baking sheet in my lower oven. The dial for the lower oven has marked settings down to 200 degrees and a range of "warm" below that. I picked a spot somewhere in the "warm" range that I hoped was approximately correct. After a couple of hours, I went out and purchased an oven thermometer to see exactly where 150 fell on the "warm" scale. I realized that I'd been baking the nuts at around 175 degrees, but adjusted the oven down for the remainder of the cooking time. I suspect that if your oven doesn't go as low as 150, these would turn out just fine at any temperature lower than 200.

- The nuts needed little, if any, tending while they baked.

- At the end of the baking time, the nuts didn't look very different from how they started, except dry instead of wet. The showed no visible signs of spice or salt.

the verdict:

I love this technique! The brining adds lots of flavor, but it is subtly infused throughout the nut, and the long slow bake dries the nuts and provides an appealing crunchy texture.

I was very glad that I'd increased the recipe; these nuts make a great snack. There are other variations of nuts/spices on the food 52 site, and I can't wait to check out some of the other flavors.


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

It reminds me of my favourite peanuts from the grocers that are brined in salt, of course pecans would be much more over the tiop...if only I lived in Georgia!!!

Mary said...

How great did your kitchen smell when you had these nuts in the oven for so many hours? I love that nut device. So southern! It looks like a kitchen device meets torture device.

Kayte said...

I have never heard of these before, sounds very interesting. And delicious!