First things first: The biggest secret is how to pronounce “pecan” properly. Now, of course you’re welcome to say it however you want, just like you’re welcome to open up a can and call it homemade cranberry sauce. But as a native of the state whose official tree is the glorious pecan (that’s Texas, y’all), I have a vested interest that leaves my ears twitching every time I hear “peh-CAN” or, worse, “PEE-can.” Let’s say it together now: puh-CON. “Puh” as in “puh-lease,” “con” as in criminal. Whew. That’s better.
In my family, pumpkin pie is a nice add-on, but pecan pie is the dessert of choice for Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And Hanukkah. And New Year’s. You get the picture. I’ve tried umpteen recipes over the years, from Mom to Martha Stewart, but my very favorite is from the good old Joy of Cooking. That’s one secret. Here’s another: I usually don’t make my own pie crust. (All right. I take back that crack about the canned cranberry sauce.) This year, though, I’m gonna try it, using the video down below from The New York Times as my guide. Wish me luck—or, better yet, post a comment or send me a message with your own pie crust recipe. I’ll be ever thankful!
» 1 pie crust, prepared using the method of your choice
» 2 c shelled pecans halves
» 3 large eggs
» 1 c sugar
» 1 cup cane syrup (Update: After lots of experimentation, my favorite corn syrup substitute—WAY BETTER than corn syrup, in fact—is Lyle's. But you don’t have to take my word for it! Here's more on the difference between organic and high-fructose corn syrup. You can also make your own cane syrup or browse the suggestions in the comments below.)
» 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
» 1 tsp vanilla
» ½ tsp salt
Before I do anything else, I melt the butter and set it aside so it has time to come to cool. Otherwise, it can cook the eggs when you add it to your pie filling.
Next, preheat the oven to 375. Now you want to break up your pecans. I usually use my fingers and snap each half into quarters, but you can lightly pulse your pecans in a food processor; just be careful not to overdo it or you’ll end up with pecan sand. Put your chopped pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for 6 to 10 minutes, stirring once. Meanwhile, place your pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate (if you’re using a ready-made crust, put the flourier/less glossy side down) and flute the edges by forming little arches over your left pointer finger and pinching them closed with your right hand; vice versa for southpaws. When the toasted pecans come out of the oven, stick the pie crust in to warm.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Stir in the toasted nuts. Pour the filling into your warmed crust and bake until the edges are firm and the center seems set but quivery when you nudge the pan, 35 to 45 minutes. If I’ve warmed the crust and am using a ceramic pie plate, 40 minutes is usually perfect.
Here’s another secret: You have to let the pie cool on a rack for at least 1 ½ hours. Any shorter, and it doesn’t have time to set. One last secret? Homemade pecan pie really is that easy—but you don’t have to tell your family. The crust, however, may be another story. Wish me luck.
STILL HUNGRY? Browse the CSA Cookoff for more HOMEGROWN recipes.