I love nuts of all kinds, but pecans are amongst my favorites. I often grab a handful of nuts as a quick pick-me-up while I am out and about and on the go. And holidays are just not complete without some kind of nuts to go around. Nuts bring good luck and good tidings for the holidays.
The holiday nut tradition has been around since the 12th century when French nuns, inspired by the legend of St Nicholas – who gave gold to the poor – began leaving stockings full of fruit, including tangerines, and nuts at the houses of poor people. Many people from European countries will tell you that it’s because Saint Nicholas brings nuts and oranges and other small treats on his feast day on December 5th or 6th. In some countries, like the Netherlands, the treats are left in good children’s shoes that are left out to be filled that night. In other countries Saint Nicholas arrives at a party carrying a large sack and strews the nuts and other goodies on the floor for children to scramble after. “Scrambling for nuts” was a popular game played by rough-housing boys in Elizabethan England. But the practice of strewing nuts goes back much further than the celebration of Christmas! Whether it’s pagan or Christian, the idea of nuts bringing good luck at Christmastime appears to have stuck. In German folklore, the tradition of giving a wooden nutcracker in the form of a soldier or some other fierce authority figure was a way of keeping loved ones safe from harm. The nutcracker represented the power and strength to guard the family from evil spirits. It served the double role of plaything for children and decorative but utilitarian accompaniment to the custom of finishing dinner with pleasant conversation while passing around the nut bowl.
According to the ancient Romans, a good nut harvest was associated with the birth of more children than usual the following year so nuts became a good luck charm for fertility. They were scattered on the ground at weddings and during the winter holiday of Saturnalia and many other holidays throughout the year. Later, when the pagan holidays were folded into Christmas it was said that the three parts of the nut—the shell, skin, and kernel—represented the holy trinity or the bones, skin, and soul of the Saviour himself.
I love all the traditions, folklore and history behind the serving of nuts for the holidays, but I also just simply love nuts too. So whatever the reasons, there are always plenty of nuts to go around at my house, both the edible kinds and the non-edible kinds, at any time of year, but especially during the holidays. This time I made some spiced orange nuts to serve as nibblies before sitting down for our Thanksgiving feast. Our Thanksgiving Feast. I have plenty left over and am still munching on them, and most likely will be for quite awhile yet to come too, and though I doubt very seriously they will still be around, if stored properly, these nuts can last for up to six months.
Spiced Orange Pecans
Preheat the oven to 225* F and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
4 cups raw pecan halves
2 TBSP orange juice
1 egg white
1 TBSP orange zest
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chocolate chili powder, optional
1/4 tsp black pepper
Mix the orange juice, egg white and pecans together and toss thoroughly.
Add the remaining ingredients and thoroughly toss everything together again.
Evenly spread the nut mixture onto the parchment paper and bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the nuts are dry. Toss the nuts frequently as they are cooking.
You can munch on these nuts by the handful, or mix them into other dishes or use them as a topping. No matter how you serve them, they will most definitely be enjoyed by all. And even though, theoretically they can last up to six months, I think they will disappear much sooner than that. I know they will in my house.
Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.