Pecans, if stored properly, can retain their fresh condition for a long period of time. You must first start with a good quality pecan, though. Quality pecans should have an oil percentage of about 73-75, carb percentage of 12-15, proteins percentage of 9-10 and water of 3-4 percent.
Are Soft Pecans Bad?
Pecans should be stored in relative humidity of about 65-70%. Humidity higher than these values can cause the pecans to become soft and grow molds. The cause of this physical condition in pecans is likely due to a fungal infection called "pecan scab". It infects both the leaves and the protective shell, especially when they are young and growing.
Factors Impacting the Storage Conditions of Pecans
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Moisture content - Harvested pecans can contain about 25-30% of moisture content. Lowering moisture content, commonly referred to as water activity in the nuts, is important in maximizing the shelf-life of pecans. It is best for pecans to be stored at 4% moisture content. The water content in pecans should be reduced soon after harvesting to prevent the development of molds and discoloration of the kernel. Sun-drying and air were some of the earliest methods of drying pecans and still, molds grew in them. Methods such as artificial drying are now used for drying pecans. The process had incredible results in eliminating molding problems. Inshell pecans will darken under high humidity due to tannic acid being dissolved from the shell lining. Relative humidity control doesn't matter much for gas or vacuum-packed pecans, as well as those pecans stored under freezing conditions.
Temperature - Storing pecans at low temperatures helps in retaining the fresh flavor of nuts, their color, aroma and texture too. In-shell pecans can be stored for about one and a half years at temperatures of about 0°C (32°F) to 2.2°C (36°F). When stored at -17° C (0°F), the storage life may extend to about 5 years. It is possible to store in-shell pecans at room temperatures for short periods. If you want to keep them longer than 4 months, then refrigeration is required. For more than one year, the cracked or shelled pecans should be kept in a freezer. Pecans taken out of frozen storage should be thawed slowly at temperatures of about 7.2°C (45°F) or 10°C (50 °F) before exposing to a higher temperature. It’s recommended that pecans be stored in brine or freon refrigerant cooled rooms.
Oil - Pecans are loaded with oils, just like other nuts. Oleic and linoleic oils constitute about 95% of the total oil in pecans. Rancidity can develop in the nuts when they are exposed to warm temperatures, changes in moisture or air. Linoleic acid is majorly responsible for rancidity and the oxidation in pecan kernels. The oil amount and saturation degree vary with the geographical location.