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Pecans Are a Staple of Holiday Baking

Pecans shelled and in the shell

Nashville, Ark. – Buttery, crunchy, plus full of flavor and healthy fats, it is no wonder pecans are used in several holiday goodies. From cookies to pies, breads, candies, and cakes, it is hard to imagine these treats without the delicious flavor of fresh pecans.

When it comes to choosing pecans for your holiday baking, choose quality. Freshness counts. While this year’s crop is dramatically reduced due to unfavorable weather conditions, you may still be able to purchase directly from the producer. Ask if the pecans are this year’s crop. If purchasing from the local grocery store, check the freshness date on the label.

Shelled or Unshelled

If you can purchase pecans in the shell, they will be more economical since you are not paying to have the pecans shelled. Choose shells that are clean and free of splits, cracks, stains, or holes. They should feel heavy for their size.

If you are purchasing pecans that are already shelled, look for plump nutmeats which are fairly uniform in color and size. The best ones have a golden-brown color. Pecan pieces are considerably less expensive than halves and are suitable for most baking needs. However, you may want some halves to use for garnishing and other holiday items such as pecan pies.

Purchasing Pecans

When purchasing pecans, a pound of in-shell pecans will yield approximately 2 ¼ cups of nutmeat. Twelve pecan halves will yield 3 tablespoons of chopped nutmeat. A good rule of thumb is to get a pound of nutmeat; you will need 2 ½ pounds of good quality pecans.

Now is the time to purchase pecans. They are plentiful in the stores. Pecans are long lasting, and when stored properly, they will hold their freshness for up to two years. This means if you have last year’s crop, they should be okay to use if they were stored correctly.

Storing Pecans

The secret to storing pecans (after shelling) is to pack them dry, protect them from insects, guard against absorbing odors from other foods, and keep them cool. Acceptable containers from storing include glass jars with lids with plastic gaskets, zipper type freezer bags with air removed, or plastic containers with tight fitting lids.

Shelled nuts will keep fresh in a cool, dry place for about 6 months. They will keep even longer in the freezer. Freeze them in tightly closed freezer containers and store at zero degrees or lower.

While pecans are high in fat, they do fit into an overall healthy diet. Pecans meet the American Heart Association’s nutritional guidelines for a heart-healthy diet. A one ounce serving (15-20 pecan halves) delivers a blast of antioxidants that are good for your heart and taste that’s good for your soul. One ounce of pecans has 195 calories, 3 grams of fiber and both heart-healthy mono-and polyunsaturated fats. Pecans also contain minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and selenium.

Howard County Extension Homemakers Annual Bake Sale

If you love the taste of homemade baked items but prefer not to go to the trouble of baking, then let the Howard County Extension Homemakers do the baking for you. They will be holding their annual Bake Sale on Friday, December 9 starting at 8:00 a.m. The sale will take place at the EHC Educational Center located directly behind the courthouse on second street. There will be all kinds of cookies, muffins, candies, cakes, pies, breads and more. They are all made from scratch and are delicious! Be sure to get there early. They usually sell out by noon. If you have a request for a favorite cake or baked good, contact the Extension Office at 870-845-7517. We will be glad to fill special orders if at all possible. All proceeds will go to benefit the EH Center which provides space for educational programs for both EHC and 4-H youth programs.

Recipe of the Week

This recipe is a favorite during the holiday season. It was shared by a friend a couple of years ago and it has become one of our favorites. Great for a quick dessert or as a coffee cake.

Easy Pecan Praline Cake
  • 1 package butter recipe cake mix

  • 1 container coconut pecan frosting

  • 4 eggs

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil or applesauce

  • 3/4 fourth cup water

  • 1 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a large Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Combine the cake mix, frosting, eggs, oil, water and one half of the pecans.
  4. Mix until combined.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining pecans in the prepared Bundt pan; pour cake batter on top.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517

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