Bah, humbug. The news isn’t good for those of us beginning to plan our holiday menus. The Associated Press reported today that due to drought in parts of the South and high demand from China, the price of pecans is going up. In 2008, the retail price for a pound of pecans was $7; last year it rose to $9, and this year experts are predicting that consumers can expect to pay around $11 per pound. It’s a good thing I still have a stash stored in the freezer, because in our house, a holiday without candied pecans is like a Yuletide without It’s a Wonderful Life.
I typically make candied pecans around Thanksgiving, and this is one of my favorite cooking traditions. They are easy to prepare, they keep beautifully throughout the season if stored in an airtight tin, and they make wonderful hostess gifts if you’ve a round of parties to attend. And while we’re talking about storage, the pecans in my freezer will be just fine. According to New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service (College of Agriculture and Home Economics), shelled pecan halves will keep from 12 to 24 months if stored below freezing (20- to 30-degrees Fahrenheit).
HOLIDAY CANDIED PECANS
—Makes 6 cups. You can also divide this recipe in half.
6 cups pecan halves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar, divided*
1. Preheat oven to 250-degrees. Divide pecans in two batches and spread out evenly on two 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pans.
2. In a 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. With a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula, stir in the corn syrup and one-half cup of sugar. Stirring constantly, bring to boil over medium heat. Once the candied syrup has reached the boiling point, allow it to boil—without stirring—for five minutes.
3. Pour the hot syrup over the nuts, taking care to stir the batches constantly (and quickly) in order to coat them evenly. (Be careful—the syrup will be hot.) At this point, I find that using a silicone spatula works better than a wooden spoon; the candied syrup doesn’t stick to it as much.
4. Bake in a preheated 250-degree oven for one hour, stirring several times. I stir the trays of pecans at four 15-minute intervals, using my kitchen timer as a reminder.
5. After removing the pans from the oven, sprinkle the pecans with the remaining one-half cup of sugar and toss to coat evenly.
6. Spread the pecans onto sheets of freezer paper (shiny side up) that you’ve set out on your work surface, and add additional amounts of sugar until you’ve nicely separated them into their individual halves and coated them with sugar. You can also perform this step on greased cookie sheets, but I find that the freezer paper eliminates the need for additional butter and works just as well. It also gives you a wider surface area in which to work.
7. Allow the pecan halves to cool, then store them in tightly covered containers.
* Plus additional sugar for coating