At one time, pecan trees were plentiful throughout the Deep South. If you didn't have a pecan tree in your yard, you had a good friend or a brother-in-law who did.
Some folks could go their whole life and never have to pay for a pecan. Severe weather conditions and diseases have dramatically decreased the pecan crop. As a result, pecans are at a premium. The cost might make me hold back my pecan usage a little bit, but I can't imagine a holiday season without some.
I can't write an article about pecans without touching on the pronunciation. It's my humble opinion that the correct way is puh-kahn. Some folks talk about something called a pee-can when they mean to say puh-kahn. A pee-can is something you keep under your bed. Think about it for a minute. It'll come to you.
I'll be making a batch of Spiced Pecans to put out on my cheese board that's part of a Southern-style Wine and Cheese party we're hosting this weekend to celebrate Christmas. They're sweet with a little kick and are a perfect compliment to cheese.
When you first taste these pecans, you'll think the spice is cinnamon. After a little bit, the flavor starts dancing around on the back of your tongue and you figure out it's cayenne pepper. The pepper isn't overpowering. Smoke isn't going to pour from your ears.
These pecans make great salad toppers, too. Try them in a salad with pears and blue cheese.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
2 cups pecan halves (pronounced puh-kahns)
Add all ingredients to a heavy pan except pecan halves. Stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Sneeze three or four times. I’m not sure if sneezing is necessary but I can’t make these without the cayenne pepper making me sneeze. I wouldn’t take any chances, if I were you. Just go on and sneeze.
Remove from heat and add pecans halves. Stir well until they’re all coated. Pour onto a baking sheet that has been heavily greased or use a Silpat baking mat.
Separate the pecan halves as best you can using two forks sprayed with a non-stick spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until the pecans start to brown.
Remove from oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container.