Best Nut In Town!

A little about Liz Is Nuts.

When Liz Britt told an old friend about her newest original idea, the man looked her square in the face and said, “Liz, you’re nuts.”

No matter that the man was talking about her fondness for pecans. She had found a name for her new business: Liz is Nuts.

lizisnuts2Her pecans, flavored with just a touch of butter and kosher salt, have become a Franklin favorite.

“Let’s talk about the pecans, child,” she said, her blue eyes sparkling. “The nut has taken off.”

Liz has owned a couple of restaurants, has managed a country club and has her own catering business, Simply Divine. Dinners, lunches, cookies, rolls and pastries zoom out of the converted convenience store near downtown that she and her husband, Herbert, use as catering headquarters.

And now, canned pecans.

The inspiration for Liz is Nuts came on a Southampton County farm that Liz rented not long after her three boys left home about nine years ago. There was a small grove of pecan trees out front. She tended them and harvested the nuts.

She called the place the “Funny Farm.” Besides the pecans to keep her busy, she had chickens, turkeys and a Black Angus calf rejected by his mother.

“That’s when my grandchildren started calling me Grandmoo,” she said, laughing.

Liz was working at the country club in Franklin. She spent breaks feeding the calf. When she let the animal out of his barn for a walk one day, she couldn’t get him back in. The Angus spent most of the rest of his life outside on that farm.

The pecans did much better. She seasoned, cooked and stirred until she had them roasted up just right. No additives. No preservatives.

The pecans became a favorite at Liz’s many catering events in peanut country. And then came the idea to can and market them.

Herbert, the husband she praises for doing her shopping, deliveries and anything else she asks of him, found on the Internet some huge, gourmet pecans they could buy in bulk from Georgia. The Britts, both 66, started roasting them in their catering facility in small quantities first – a few pounds each week.

gormet-pecanYou wouldn’t believe the attention you have to give them while they’re cooking,” she said.

She’s now up to roasting about 150 pounds a week, which are then canned by the Wakefield Peanut Co. The pecans cost $10.99 for an 8-ounce can, $20.99 for a one-pound can. So far, the company is sticking to the simple, roasted and salted variety. Nothing fancy.

The Wakefield company is just one of a couple of dozen nut processing and canning enterprises around the Hampton Roads area. But most of the local companies specialize in peanuts, the large gourmet types grown in Southeast Virginia.

Companies specializing in pecans in the Old Dominion are a rarity, because the tree nuts grow better and larger in the deep South. Liz found a niche.

She managed to get the Virginia’s Finest designation for her nuts late last year. Although the nuts are not grown in Virginia, they’re cooked, processed and packaged here, so they qualified.

One customer she has never met orders a case of the pecans a month and sends them all over, as far away as Alaska and Iraq.

Liz said the investment in gourmet pecans has been more than time and hard work. She expects to see a pecan profit by the end of the year. Then, she said, she and Herbert will make decisions about their catering and other businesses.

“Pecans take a lot of loving care,” she said. “They cost more to begin with, and you have to refrigerate them to keep them fresh before roasting. We may just call the kids someday from one of the islands and tell them to take over.”

Liz suggests using the nuts as snacks, in salads, on ice cream.

“These are beautiful pecans, just beautiful,” she said.

“My goal is to be the No. 1 nut.”

 

By Linda McNatt
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 15, 2009
FRANKLIN