Regardless of whether you eat them roasted or use them to make your favorite pecan pie, the pecans need to be peeled and cleaned before use. From Step 1 onwards, you will have detailed instructions on how to extract their contents by removing the resistant husks.
Method 1 of 3: Preparing the Pecans
Step 1. Grow or buy unshelled pecans
Choose uniforms in size and shape that are heavy in your hands. Stuart or Moneymaker types are common and popular.
Step 2. Separate the walnuts
Analyze the pecans and discard all with cracks or holes, those that appear to be much lighter than others or that make noise when shaken. They are probably spoiled.
Step 3. Think about boiling the pecans
Pecan experts say that boiling them before cracking helps soften the shells.
- Boil a large jug of water in the mouth of the stove. Carefully place the walnuts in the water and heat them for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the water and let them cool before breaking them.
- An alternative is to place a glass of water and two cups of pecans in a bowl (which can be placed in the microwave oven) and heat it on high temperature for 5 to 6 minutes.
Step 4. Arrange the place where you are going to peel them
This task can be quite messy, as pieces of bark can fly all over the place. It's a good idea to do this outdoors, minimizing the need for a major cleanup.
Method 2 of 3: Breaking and Peeling Pecans
Step 1. Use a nutcracker
A general purpose tool (which breaks regular nuts) can be used to break the shells of the pecans.
- Place the nut between the arms of the nutcracker and gently squeeze until you hear a cracking noise. Do not tighten too tightly or its contents will be broken.
- Rotate the nut between the tool arms and tighten once more. Continue rotating and squeezing the entire length of the pecan until the shell is soft enough to be removed.
Step 2. Use a side cutter and pliers
This is another good way to shell your nuts.
- Take the side cutter and use it to trim the two pointed sides of the pecan bark by pouring them into a bowl.
- Then take a pair of pliers (any type will do) and place the nut between each arm, carefully cracking it around the middle of the shell, turning and breaking it slowly until the shell comes out.
Step 3. Use a special pecan breaker
If you need to peel a lot of pecans, it may be worth investing in a nut breaker, which has a very different appearance, providing more support and exerting more pressure to crack the shell.
- These tools will facilitate and make the pecan peeling process much more efficient, without damaging the nut content.
- Although most nutcrackers are manually operated, it is possible to purchase motorized pecan nutcrackers to peel them much faster.
Step 4. Squeeze two walnuts together
If you don't have any tools to break the shells, this method can be used.
Do this by taking two walnuts and placing them in one hand. Close it tightly, squeezing one pecan against the other until one of the shells cracks enough to be removed
Step 5. Use a hammer
One of the simplest methods of breaking pecan shells is to use a hammer and a hard surface.
- Place it on a hard, solid surface, hitting the nut with the hammer. It may be necessary to rotate and hit other points on the shell for it to crack. Watch your fingers!
- Despite being a quick method, it tends to break the nut's content, leaving the pecans fragmented. If you want whole pieces, it is better to use another way.
Step 6. Remove the contents of the shell
After cracking the nut using one of the above methods, you will need to carefully remove the pecans from the broken shell, keeping them as intact as possible.
- Use your fingers or a small pair of pliers to remove the shell from one of the nut's halves. Then, pick up a sharp object to remove the pecan shell pieces at once.
- The ideal is to remove this type of nut in two whole "halves", but it's okay if they break - any part that gets stuck inside the broken shell can still be used.
Method 3 of 3: Cleaning and Storing Pecans
Step 1. Clean any remaining pieces of bark
Use a toothpick or even a longer piece of pecan shell to remove bits of the nut's contents that still have parts of the shell. Even a little of this material can leave a very bitter taste in the mouth of the person who consumes the pecan nut.
Step 2. Leave the walnuts in an opening container or strainer for 24 hours
This will allow them to dry and ripen and taste better when consumed.
Step 3. Store the pecans in a sealed container
After ripening, the walnuts should be placed in a sealed container and stored in a cool, dry environment. They last about a week if left in the kitchen, for several weeks in the fridge, and up to a year in the freezer.
- Store the pecans in a protected location as squirrels and other rodents can try to steal from the storage location if they find the opportunity.
- Choose nuts suitable for your intended use. Each one can give a different result, varying the amount of oil, ease of peeling, the amount of product and flavor.