76. Pralines (Don’t Even Think About Adding Walnuts)

22 Feb

That about sums it up...

First, let me specify: I am writing about PRAW-leens. I’ve never eaten anything called a PRAY-leen. Most especially, not a PEE-can PRAY-leen. In fact, I can’t believe I just wrote that. Now I have the word “PEE-can PRAY-leen” stuck in my brain in the manner of a Barry Manilow song. Oh, wait, now the phrase has been usurped by “Mandy.” ACK!

Recently one of my readers (who just so happens to have two first names) asked about a good recipe for pralines. I’ll be sharing one in this post, but first I’m going to sing the praises of one of the world’s greatest candies.

Pralines represent three of my favorite food groups: Butter, sugar, and nuts. Not necessarily in that order.

I dare anyone with a sweet tooth to walk by Aunt Sally’s Pralines in the French Quarter of New Orleans without stopping in to sample a warm praline. Caution: like heroin, pralines can be addictive after the very first taste. However, unlike heroin, you will not end up emaciated after prolonged use. Quite the opposite, actually.

Fortunately, Aunt Sally’s website features a 1-800 number “praline hotline.” Which I reckon is a lifesaver for those experiencing a praline-related emergency.

If you’re looking for an immediate fix and can’t find a nearby purveyor of pralines, you could stop by Baskin Robbins for a scoop of Pralines ‘n Cream ice cream. The downside: you won’t be able to appreciate a praline in its singular glory. The upside: hello! Ice cream!

One of the best parts of Christmas for me was the smorgasbord of candies my mom always used to make: toffee, coconut balls, white fudge, haystacks, and pralines. Even when she wasn’t able to stand for long, she’d pull the folding kitchen ladder up to the stove to sit and stir. And if she didn’t have the stamina to tackle everything, she’d insist on making pralines because they’re my brother Mike’s favorite.

It wasn’t until after my sister and I took over the candy-making role that I truly appreciated what a GIFT my mother had given us all those years. Candy making is a time-consuming, frustration-producing, often-disappointing pain in the ass. The only fuel that enables one to power through a marathon sweet-making session is love. (Of candy itself and/or the folks you’re making it for. In the South, it’s usually both.)

I have never attempted praline-making myself, but if you want to give it a shot, here’s my mom’s recipe:

Pralines

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 small can) evaporated milk
1/2 stick butter
small pinch soda
1 T Karo syrup
1 t vanilla
1 cup pecan halves

Cook sugars, Karo, milk and soda to soft ball stage or 235 degrees. Remove from heat and add butter. Return to heat until butter is melted. Take off stove and add vanilla. Beat until it begins to thicken. Add nuts and place in little patties on waxed paper.

Bonus: You’ll find the recipe for the scrumptious looking pralines pictured above at Dixie Caviar.

Note: If you’ve never attempted candy-making, these candy-making tips may help you avert disaster.

Photo credits: Southern Candymakers sign by Wally Gobetz, Flickr Creative Commons, Yummy plate ‘o pralines courtesy of Dixie Caviar.

What’s your favorite traditional Southern treat?

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12 Responses to “76. Pralines (Don’t Even Think About Adding Walnuts)”

  1. Debbie February 22, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    My great-aunt and great-uncle had a praline shop down south and they made the BEST candy! Despite living up North now, I cringe when I hear its name pronounced PRAY-leens! I can’t eat nuts, but I can pick my way through them and savor the other ingredients — om nom nom!!

    • girloutofdixie February 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

      Oh, my, how I would love to have been born into a family that had their very own praline shop!

  2. littlecackles February 22, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Love this! And I hate it when people say “pee-can” “prey-leens”. 🙂

    http://littlecackles.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/i-went-on-up-to-the-audubon-zoo/

    • girloutofdixie February 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

      Thank you for your Southern pronunciation primer. It’s spot on!!

  3. wanderingseniors February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I love Aunt Sally’s pralines! My mouth is watering. Thank you for the recipe; I’ll be making pralines the first chance I get. I tried once years ago, but they didn’t turn out like they should have (and not so good, either). If this one turns out bad I’ll know it’s me and keep trying until I get it right.

    Kathy Jean

    • girloutofdixie February 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

      You’re welcome, Kathy Jean!

      Let me know how they turn out!

  4. southofseattle February 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    My granny in Texas used to make these and ship them to us every year for Christmas. After she died at the age of 102, I had to go in search for some since they don’t have any in the Seattle area. I wound up in the Dallas airport buying them. The last time I flew through there though, they didn’t have them in the gift shop. I thought that was just plain wrong! I booked my flight to go through Texas JUST to get pralines. SO I had to find a recipe and make my own after that. I found a great one and discovered how difficult they really are to make. Takes a lot of patience and vigilance. Don’t try to hurry or take short cuts or you’ll get goo or burned sugar.

    • girloutofdixie February 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

      I LOVE that you booked your flight to go through Texas just for the pralines, and HATE that they weren’t selling them.

      You’re right, patience is essential for candy making. Candy, like a little old lady at the grocery store, cannot and should not be rushed!

  5. Mary Louise February 23, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I LOVE pralines. I agree about the pee-can. I remember my mama making the pralines…stirring and stirring. But OMGosh! I was about counter height and watching her spoon out the candy onto the wax paper…I was in candy heaven! But alas, I do not have her recipe. I plan to try yours and to check out the Aunt Sally’s website. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    • girloutofdixie February 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that great memory of candy heaven. I look forward to hearing how your candy making goes.

  6. ingridbuck January 31, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    I love your recipe. I really adore the taste of this southern candy. I still remember when I was a kid my mom used to make pralines and I was the one who scoop the candy. It’s really fun to remember those old memories together with my mom.

    • Kim Holloway March 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      Thanks! Glad I could bring back some pleasant memories.

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