Any good Southern Hostess has a dish of Toasted Pecans ready at a moment’s notice to serve to drop in company or the finest occasions… In fact it is difficult to imagine any festive occasion all year round when Pecans aren’t welcome! Especially welcome during the Holidays!
Native to the American South, named by Native Americans, grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson- who helped his colleague George Washington, get his own pecan grove started at Mount Vernon…why, it’s your patriotic duty to appreciate Pecans!
Pecans and Sugar are a natural combination- everyone who’s ever tasted a Southern Pecan Pie knows this to be a fact. Yet, it might surprise you to learn that well before the Revolutionary War, before New Orleans was even part of our country, they were making Pralines! Let me stop right here… please pronounce Pralines.. Praw-leenes and even more important- don’t say Pee Can- it’s an insult to this magnificent Native Nut! Pronounce it Pah- cahn, please- Thank y’all.
Now, while pecans are grown extensively – the best and thinnest skinned Pecans are grown in the Coastal Southern States. In fact a very memorable vacation side trip may be taken along Scenic I-95 in lower Alabama- grove upon grove with very large growth trees are beautiful and there is a Pecan Factory – through glass windows you can witness the shelling and packaging by hairnet wearing workers- Big Boards with mounted pecans show the extensive hybrids grown in the region…okay, well I enjoyed it!
Anyway…what you may not know is that nut for nut- Pecans are extremely nutritious… those who have a stash of pecans…could be said to be Healthy Wealthy and Wise. Good for the skin, rich in minerals, antioxidants and fiber- even sweeter than any other tree grown nut- Pecans without sugar are a wonderful addition to any diet.Still. Around the holidays we do love our Pecans – toasted, sugared, baked, candied…it’s just not the Holidays without them! Pecans take well to sweet or savory Southern flavors- Sugar, Bourbon, even crushed in breading for Fresh Fish and naturally Citrus.
As an addition to Holiday Gatherings- these Holiday Orange Pecans can be made in less than an hour- packaged for Holiday Gifts, Hostess Gifts and even kept in the Freezer for…oh I don’t know…maybe New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day or Birthdays and Anniversaries.
One of the oldest recipes I have for Pecan Pralines has Orange Flavoring – these Holiday Orange Pecans have a Praline Coating that is easy to make and even easier to Eat! Here’s how you make them:
Camellia’s Holiday Orange Pecans
- 3 cups of Pecan Halves
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2/3 cups milk or half and half
- 2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
- 2 Tablespoons of Salted Butter
- Zest of one Large Orange
- 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
Toast pecan halves in single layer on a large sheet pan in a 250 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes until they take on an even darker shade of brown- be careful- do not burn! In a large heavy bottomed Saucepan, cook sugar, milk and corn syrup to soft ball stage (234-238 on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and add Salted Butter (if using unsalted- add a pinch or two of salt) , Orange Zest and Pure Vanilla Extract. Beat until creamy and thick.
Stir in Pecans and coat thoroughly. Pour out on a parchment lined sheet pan- separating into single layer or separating each pecan. (If desired, more orange zest can be sprinkled on top of pecans before they harden) Allow to cool. Store in airtight containers. Freezes well.
Now, the truth is- Holiday Orange Pecans are easy to make, but they aren’t inexpensive or low calorie. Still. I think you’ll find the rich flavor goes a long way. They’re well worth less than an hour of precious holiday time to make! If you prefer, you may leave out the Orange Zest, increase Vanilla and have the classic Praline Pecans. Wonderful on their own, delicious alongside a piece of Pound Cake, as a Topping for Fruit Salads, Ambrosia or even Ice Cream! Packaged in small tins or beribboned clear cellophane bags to be given as a gift? I do believe you will be most popular this Holiday Season!
Love y’all, Camellia
*all photographs are obviously mine.