Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Granny's Texas Pralines

Marjorie the Margin Gem and I have been very busy the last couple of days.  Yesterday we made Chex mix, Christmas Crack, and what we call "Angel Poop."  Today, in the middle of a powerful winter storm, the real cooking commenced with Meme's fudge, Meme's divinity, Meme's penuche, and Granny's Texas pralines.  "Granny" was what we called my grandmother on my dad's side.  She and Gramps lived next door for the first nineteen years of my life--first in the home where Nancy and I live now, later in the little house just to the west where my folks lived when I was born.

Granny was an excellent cook, but by the time I came along, her candy and cookie making days had given way to store-bought treats.  Older members of the family remember her filling the north porch at Christmas time with all manner of homemade confections, but my food memories of her center around the wonderful Midwestern dinners she made.  As was always the tradition with farm families around here, dinner was the noon meal, and supper was a lighter, less labor intensive affair.  Granny's dinners were known for the creamiest mashed potatoes, homegrown vegetables, and some of the best meats I've ever tasted.

During Christmas break of either my freshman or sophomore years of college, I went up to Gramps and Gran's and rifled through Granny's recipe box, copying whatever struck my fancy.  Unfortunately, the foods that I remembered the most fondly were the results of Granny's instincts, not written recipes.  (Her meatloaf was to die for, and I later discovered that it was the result of her Danish heritage, but I have yet to find a recipe that is close.)  

I did copy her recipe for Texas pralines, though I didn't really know what they were.  When I brought the recipe home, I showed it to my mom, who remembered it right away.

"Oh, those are SO good!" Mom said.  

Well, once again Mom was right: this is an outstanding candy recipe that I enjoy more and more each year.  Here is what you'll need:

2 c. granulated sugar

1 c. cultured buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 T. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

pecan pieces or halves

Here is what you do:

1. In a 3- or 4-quart heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, buttermilk, and soda.  The buttermilk and soda will react and become quite foamy, which is why you need the large pan.  Bring these to a boil directly over the firebox, stirring constantly.

2. Once the mixture has come to a full boil, continue stirring constantly and move the pan to a cooler part of the stove to keep boiling gently.  Boil until it reaches the soft ball stage.  (I test in cold water, but you can use a candy thermometer if you prefer.) 

You can see from these photos that the mixture turns brown and its foaminess reduces as it cooks.

3. When the soft ball stage has been reached, remove from the fire and add the tablespoon of butter and teaspoon of vanilla.  Beat for awhile until it begins to thicken and looks like the picture below.

4. Add the pecans at this point.  There was no measure given in the recipe, so just add enough for it to look right as a dropped candy.  Continue beating until the candy thickens and loses most of its glossiness.

5. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper.  Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

If cooked according to these directions, this candy should be a very smooth coating to the pecans.

A northwest wind has howled all day long here with gusts so strong at times that it sounds like a semi-truck is approaching.  When I got up this morning at a little after six, the temperature was 43ºF.  It has dropped all day, and the snow started to blow this afternoon.  It was a perfect time to make this candy because standing and stirring constantly at the wood cookstove was a pleasure!

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