The pecan is a species of hickory. It is native to south and central North America and is considered a Southern delicacy. These nuts are edible with a rich buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or roasted but are commonly used in cooking particularly in sweets such as cookies, pies, cakes and candy.
A traditional Southern dessert is pecan pie. My favorite recipe is included here. The pecan is also common in savory dishes like dips, salads and often is paired with sweet potatoes in a wonderful side dish. The pecan is used in entrees along with meats such as pecan crusted chicken or pork. They are great snacks.
This season has been an exceptionally good one for pecans in our area. The yield has been small in the past few years. The pecans are still falling and flavor is great this year. Pecans are a source of unsaturated fats and are high in protein. They are said to reduce bad cholesterol and are high in plant sterols and antioxidants. In moderation, the pecan is a healthy snack and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Pecan trees are also valued for their wood which is used in furniture making, hardwood flooring and as fuel for flavoring smoked meats in barbecue smokers all over the country.
The French claim to have originated pecan pie in New Orleans after it was first inhabited. They used the Native Americans’ pecan in their sweet confections and developed the pie according to their history. A famous holiday treat, pecan pie, has not been found in recipes any earlier than 1925. Some well-known cookbooks did not include it until the 1940s. Karo syrup makers popularized it in the 1940s providing recipes for their consumers. In the South, homemade cane syrup is often the sweetener along with cane or brown sugar. Sorghum syrup or molasses are regional sweeteners in some areas of the country. Traditionally the pie consists of custard made of corn syrup, eggs and sugar. It is often flavored with vanilla, and sometimes other ingredients, such as chocolate or bourbon whiskey. Whipped cream is a favorite topping for the dessert.
Pecan pie is mentioned in American writings associated with special occasions, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Our tables always feature the pecan pie at most gatherings. With the abundant crop this year, make one to share with friends and family.
Historic Effingham Society would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. As we count our blessings, remember our ancestors and pioneers who paved the way for us to share our holiday traditions and bounty. Hopefully we will worship together thanking God for a good year and our blessings.
This column is being written weekly by Susan Exley from the Historic Effingham Society. If you have questions, old photographs, contributions or comments to share, please contact her at 754-6681 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.