This is the very best recipe for Pecan Pralines! They are rich, creamy like fudge, buttery and melt in your mouth.
The first time I tasted pecan pralines, I was in 7th grade and in the French Quarter of New Orleans for a national youth gathering. A bunch of us from my church youth group filled a chartered bus and drove from Nebraska to New Orleans. I am pretty sure that I listened to The Cars the entire drive…ahh, the great music of the 80s! New Orleans was like going to another world if you’re from Nebraska. Besides the activities we attended as part of the gathering, we took tours throughout the city, tried alligator on a stick, and I bought a Mardi Gras doll for a souvenir. We also snuck down to Bourbon Street one night because we were 13 years old and not very smart – and got caught, of course.
Pecan Pralines have quite the history. They are believed to have been brought to New Orleans by French Ursuline nuns who were in charge of young women sent to the colonies to marry New Orleans colonists. The young women were taught how to be upstanding ladies in society and the art of praline making. Because of all the native pecan trees in Louisiana, the almonds in the original pralines were replaced with pecans and cream was added. Modern day pecan pralines are not much different than the ones made in the 1700s!
I don’t have a great memory, I just remember really liking that pecan praline I had more than 25 years ago. So, I wanted to try my hand at making them. In my collection of vintage cookbooks and recipes, I found “Great Grammaw’s Pecan Pralines” with a little narrative “absolutely the very best recipe I ever tried”. This recipe was also unique from the others in that it had a cup of buttermilk rather than the usual milk, cream or in some cases just water.
Old-fashioned recipes aren’t always specific in their instructions and this recipe certainly wasn’t. The instructions just stated to “cook until mahogany brown in color…beat until almost thick…add pecans…drop by spoonsful on marble slab”. I had to reference other recipes to understand that the sugar mixture is cooked to a soft ball stage and that the pecans should be toasted and chopped.
The flavor of these pecan pralines is absolutely yummy. They are buttery and creamy. They smell amazing. However, ( not kidding) I had to make these three times to get the right consistency to spoon these onto waxed paper and even then I wasn’t sure I had it. Pralines aren’t readily available in South Dakota and I needed a reference point to be sure that my texture was right. I researched “very best pralines” on the internet and found the “New Orleans Famous Praline Company” out of Metairie, Louisiana. If anyone had the praline correct, this company probably did. I bought a box and eagerly awaited its arrival so I could test mine against “the famous”.
Ha! I did it! Pecan pralines are supposed to be about 3 inches in diameter, rather flat, and have a rich, creamy fudge-like texture that melts in your mouth. Pecan pieces should be in each and every bite. Yes, “the famous” ones are pretty good. However, my adaptation of “Great Grammaw’s Pecan Pralines” have far superior flavor!
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 large pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 2 cups pecan pieces, toasted
- In a large, deep saucepan stir together the buttermilk, sugar, soda and salt.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 230 degrees F (soft ball stage).
- Remove from the heat and add butter and vanilla.
- Beat until almost thick.
- Add pecan pieces and drop by spoonfuls onto a buttered marble slab or double thickness waxed paper.
- Let cool and store in a tightly covered container.
(recipe adapted from Elaine Douglass Jones’ “Gourmet’s Guide to New Orleans Creole Cookbook, 1933)
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