Friday, March 2, 2012

An Homage to the Lowly Pecan

Ah, the pecan.  Such a wonderful southern nut with so many possibilities but so mispronounced.  I have heard people in Alabama and Tennessee call it puh-CON, puh-CAN, PEE-cun, and the most comical of all...PEE-can.

My southern mother trained her children to call it a puh-CON and we would knowingly smile at one another when other, less cultured folks, would mispronounce the football-shaped nut.

We were fortunate enough to have a mature pecan tree in our backyard when I was growing up.  Being the youngest in the family and closest to the ground, I was given the job of picking up the nuts.  Then we would crack them and pick out the meat, being very careful not to let a piece of wondering shell get into the nut bowl.  These meats were destined for mother's pies and she would have died of embarrassment if a tooth was broken because of our carelessness.

After our pecan tree no longer produced fruit because of age and too many storms ravaging it's branches, Mother ordered boxes of shelled pecans from Georgia.  She would set aside a day to do nothing but make pecan pies.  After they cooled, they were placed in gallon-sized ziploc bags and stored in her deep freeze in the basement.  For those of you that do not know what a deep freeze is, it always reminded me of a casket because of it's size and shape.  It could hold innumerable containers of frozen foods.

In our small town, friends and family came to expect one of Mother's wonderful pecan pies when they had a death in the family or were recuperating from illness.

It wasn't until after Mother died in 1993 that I realized how much I loved those pies.  On a visit with my Dad a few months after her death, we decided it was time to clean out that deep freeze.  There was no telling what needed to be thrown away.  Opening the lid, we were amazed to find a pecan pie!  Her last pie!  We felt as if we had opened a treasure chest and found something of great worth....and we had.  After the pie thawed, we had my sister and brother come to help eat Mother's last pecan pie.  We savored every nut, crumb of crust and dollop of sweetness.  I can still taste it now!

My sister and I have tried to duplicate Mother's pie but always seem to fall short.  Perhaps we really can't make it as well as she did, or perhaps we don't want to.  We do think of her every time we make a pecan pie, though, and that is a sweet, sweet memory.

Below is Carrie Mae's Pecan Pie recipe.  A word of advise, combine all the ingredients but stir very sparingly.  Don't over-do it.  Also, use dark corn syrup.  It's just the southern way.

Carrie Mae's Pecan Pie

3 eggs, beaten slightly
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Pour into a 9 inch pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.