“Uh-huh, tell me what the weather is like,” is what Mama asked over the phone when I told her I was making pralines for a Christmas party that night. At first I thought she was changing the subject rather quickly then while I was describing the weather as cold and humid I remembered that the weather condition determines the success of the candy. Since the humidity was high she told me that I may need to let the candy cook a little longer passed the soft ball stage. With that in mind my first batch of pralines was a little dry and set up rather quickly, the second batch was better, but the third was melt in your mouth good! Guess I was out of practice.
Noelie Trahan, Mama’s mama, made the best pecan pralines. They became a tradition in our southern Louisiana home at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Ma Ma had a large pecan orchard where we used to help her pick those nuts every fall. I recall seeing large printed flour sacks filled with pecans for drying on the wash house floor. There were plenty of them for pralines. I can’t remember the holidays without those sweet treats. These are not difficult to make. The trickiest part is knowing when to take them off of the heat before adding the pecans. Here’s the recipe:
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
1 cup canned evaporated milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pecans halves
Put sugar, baking soda, salt and milk into a heavy saucepan. Stir ingredients together and cook over medium to low heat with a constant stir. Low and slow. Cook until the candy darkens and it reaches a soft ball stage.
I have never gotten along well with a candy thermometer so I just take a cup of cold water and pour a little of the candy into the water to test and see at what stage the candy has cooked.
When the pralines form a soft ball by using your fingers to gather the candy together while in the cold water then it is ready to take off of the heat and add to it the butter and vanilla. Beat by hand with a spoon for a few minutes then add pecans continuing to beat until it feels a bit firmer.
Pour onto wax paper by a tablespoon and let set until it hardens and cools completely.
I treasure Noelie’s Pecan Praline recipe. It’s a gift from her to our family that I use to make happy memories in the kitchen with friends and family. Hoping you get to make gifts of time spent in the kitchen with your loved ones this Christmas even if it’s just sharing a cup of hot cocoa together.
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens