Growing up in a pecan-rich environment, it was hard for them not to be a household favorite.

During the holidays, we would get a bag of pecans — in shells of course — put out the nutcrackers and, when we were in need of a quick bite, crack open a few.

That was always the fun part, for me at least.

The difficult part was mastering the art of cracking the shell without destroying the goods inside.

Of course we had the decorative nutcrackers that sat on the mantle, paying homage to the ballet.

The ones that we used were the hand-held metals ones that look like two pens put together or the Texas inertia nutcracker that is powered by a rubber band.

That one was always fun to play with.

Occasionally, mom would get the bag of mixed nuts, which included Brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds, along with pecans. They were all good, just not quite the same as a good ol’ pecan.

We would also pick up pecans that dropped from the trees around the restaurant. As I grew older and wiser, I learned a new technique for extracting the nut from the shell.

I can let you readers in on it now.

Pick up two solid pecans, hold them in one hand, close that hand, and with as much force as possible try to crack the shells. For me, it took a little more work and hand power, but the reward was just as sweet.

Pecans can be used for just about anything — a snack, the coating to a meaty dish, salad enhancements, drink ingredients, candied treats, bread, donuts, fudge, ice cream. The list goes on and on.

I’ve used them for a pecan crusted chicken recipe and in salads.

But most importantly, they’re great for making pies.

And my grandma — or as many know her, “Gigi” — makes the best pecan pies.

Her specialty were the mini pies.

She would make them at Christmas for us.

Eventually, she started making them for other people.

They would sell them in bake sales or take them home for themselves.

She’s slowed down a little bit and hasn’t made many pies in a while, but that’s OK. I think I’ll get her into the kitchen this year and learn her secrets.

This weekend is the celebration of all things pecan.

The city hosts the annual Pecan Fest and Heritage Days.

The three-day event pays homage to one of the town’s most notable agricultural commodities, as well as celebrates the town’s namesake, Juan Seguin.

For me, it also signals the start of the holiday season — and yes, Halloween is part of the season. Which means it is time to pull out the nutcrackers, grab a bag of shelled pecans and get to cracking.

Felicia Frazar is the managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. Her column runs every other week. You can e-mail her at felicia.frazar .

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