Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Timbits: Pecans, and a Praline Recipe!

Okay, so obviously pecans aren't exclusive to Louisiana--I mean, my husband's mom has one in her back yard. But pecans ARE integral to the state... from the Louisiana Pecan Festival in Colfax each year, to Pecan Island in Vermilion Parish, to the plethora of pecan farmers across the state, you almost can't go to Louisiana without being served something with pecans on it.

NERDY BIT: (I'm a scientist, so bear with me) Pecans are the drupe or "fruit" of the Carya illinoinensis tree, a member of the hickory genus and the Juglandaceae (walnut) family. They're native to south-central North America, as they thrive in areas with long, hot summers, and relatively moderate winters. The US produces approximately 80-95% of the world's commercial supply of pecans. A pecan tree can live & bear edible fruit for more than 300 years.

One of the most well-known Louisiana uses for pecans would be pralines (PRAH-leens), and one of the most famous New Orleanian praline maker is Aunt Sally's, which are available in a variety of fantastic flavors:

However, if you can't get to Louisiana to pick up a praline...you can always make them yourself!

While living in Louisiana, I was taught how to make pralines from scratch by a friend's mom, a wonderfully sweet Cajun lady who I've referred to here previously as Nana D. Nana D shared with me her recipe, which comes from this cookbook:

That she's had since she was 20-something. Well...she has the original--she made me this copy, since her book is rather old & quite delicate. I did a little research, and this cookbook was put out in 1975 by the Louisiana Power & Light Company.

Note: This recipe has not been modified from the original, as it's tough to "health-up" candy without screwing with the chemistry of it.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp butter
1 cup Louisiana pecan halves

Dissolve sugars in cream and boil to the "thread test" (or 228 degrees Fahrenheit, if you have a candy thermometer), stirring occasionally. Add butter & pecans: cook until syrup reachs soft-ball test (236 F). Cool, and beat until somewhat thickened but not until it loses its gloss, and drop by tablespoonful onto a greased marble slab or double thickness of waxed paper. You need to do this rather quickly, otherwise the "dough" will start to harden. The candy will flatten out into large cakes. Makes about 12 pralines.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories 232.2
Total Fat 10.3 g
Saturated Fat 3.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.1 g
Monounsaturated Fat 4.7 g
Cholesterol 11.7 mg
Sodium 25.0 mg
Potassium 113.6 mg
Total Carbohydrate 42.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Sugars 41.5 g
Protein 1.1 g

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