Social media makes the world such a small place… When I put out a call for features during this series, I was put in contact with Keith of Larrabee Farms. Turns out, Keith is a customer of my dad and our butcher shop back in California! There is a joke back where I grew up in California that goes “it’s where the nuts come from” and that is indeed true. Northern California is the home for almonds, walnuts, and pecans! Larrabee Farms grows pecans and I am so delighted to feature a pecan grower so close to my old California home!
I decided to make a butter pecan ice cream which is one of my favorites if done correctly. Here’s where I have a confession to make: I’ve never made homemade ice cream!!! I had no idea it was literally so easy! Which is great, but also terrible for my waistline to know. Anyway, my husband wasn’t too sure about butter pecan, but upon giving it a try, he said “it tastes like candy”. So there you go….
PECANS: LARRABEE FARMS
Glenn County, California
When did you start farming and what brought you into farming?
I started farming after college graduation in 1989. Growing up on a farm brought great joy and pleasure. While I thought about other professions, I always envisioned myself being a farmer.
What chores did you have growing up on the farm? Are there any differences between your farm now and your farm when you were a kid?
I started as a child doing mostly hand labor (shovel, broom, raking, etc.), then slowly moved into driving equipment. As a child, my parents were the sole owner of our farm. While they mostly were rice growers, they did own and farm some row crop land. Today, the business is larger and more diversified. Rice, Walnuts, Pecans, Warehousing and throughout the years have grown Prunes and Row Crops (Wheat, Corn, Beans, Sunflowers, Vine Seed, etc..) Since the business is larger it is more structured with defined roles with the employees. Today, I am in business with 2 of my brothers. Together our three families operate the farming business.
What has been the hardest part of farming for you? The most satisfying part of farming for you?
Time and regulation are the most challenging part of farming. As a farmer, you work until the job is done, and deal with Mother Nature even if that is on the weekend or typical holidays’ we observe in this country. Unnecessary and unwarranted regulation has and can be very challenging. The most satisfying part of farming is watching your work pay off day to day. Watching crops grow and produce is a great sense of pride and joy for farmers.
What do you think was the most useful advance in farming such as machinery, genetics, chemicals, etc?
All that you mention has been great advances in the past 25 years. Technology has been a great advancement in agriculture. It has led to more efficient and safer uses of these items.
What crops do you grow and why?
We grow crops that are best suited for our area. In this case Rice and Walnuts fit nicely. Pecans are relatively new, 13 years for us, and we think they will be a positive to our business and area. Why? This is a business like any other, and over the years they have been profitable.
What is one message you’d like to get across to the general public about what you do?
Agriculture in the United States feeds 75% of the world. In California, we have the most diversified crops, stringent food & environmental regulations. “Growing food is not a waste of Water”
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into farming?
Production agriculture is a long-term business. It takes high levels of capital investment and a long-term vision to accomplish goals. This is a huge reason why farmers are so proud of their business.
If you are like me and have never made homemade ice cream, let me explain the process a little bit…
First you make the “custard” on the stove. I found it is best to let it sit overnight before freezing/churning the ice cream. I used a Hamilton Beach ice cream maker to do this. It requires no rock salt, just a frozen dish which makes the process extremely simple.
During the churning process, DO NOT add chopped nuts (or other ingredients) until the ice cream has churned at least 15 minutes… Otherwise the ice cream maker will seize up and you will freak out that you broke it and curse at yourself for not reading fine detailed instructions. Luckily for all of us, I pulled all the nuts out of it and the ice cream maker started right up!
I also found that the ice cream was best after letting it sit in the freezer for several hours before serving, even then, it will not be the same consistency as store-bought ice cream, it is much better!!
- 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small skillet, caramelize the pecans in butter and brown sugar for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the half and half to under 200 degrees. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Whisk a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the eggs and pour into pan, whisking constantly. Cook and stir over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon.
- Remove from the heat and place saucepan in a bowl of ice water. Stir in whipping cream and vanilla. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate overnight.
- Churn/Freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow ice cream to firm up in freezer for several hours before serving.