In the ‘Berry, pecans are required for the holidays. They’re chopped for the cheese ball and toasted in butter, gelatin-ed with cranberries and baked in the sand dabs, tossed in green salad and sprinkled on squash casserole, mixed in the Waldorf and stirred in divinity—
Ooooh, and deliciously baked in a pecan pie.
Yes, it’s the perfect ending to a perfect feast.
Pecan pie is a dessert much beloved of my beloved. Through the years I tried several recipes, but I’ve always returned to the one presented here.
My working theory on pecan pies is that they, like Southern ladies, tend to be overly sweet. With a splash of vinegar, however, they are altogether captivating.
The teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in this recipe lowers the sweetness level to somewhere below the level of a hurricane flood surge at high tide, while elegantly satisfying the sweet tooth.
For over 40 years now, this pie has been a holiday favorite of family and friends.
The first time I presented this recipe, I also presented a story from the early 80s about some friends in a women’s support group. They advised me over the holidays to kick back and enjoy the time with family and friends, not to stay so busy in the kitchen that the holidays become a blur.
Yet, nary a one sent home with me the pecan pie my holiday busy-ness had provided for the group.
As one commented, “One woman’s obsession is another woman’s Christmas joy.”
As with most good things in life, there is some controversy in the pecan universe. Some say “pee-can,” others say “puh-cahn.”
A California friend once corrected my pronunciation of pee-can, after I had given her a gallon bag for Christmas. Shelled, a gallon bag, and she felt the need to correct my pronunciation?!
After the obligatory “bless your heart,” I patiently explained, “When they’re your trees, you can pronounce ‘em anyway you want. Meanwhile, these pecans fell from my trees, and they’re called…”
Another controversy in the pecan universe: crusted, or crustless?
One of our friends, the late Gene Norris, never cared for crust. I always baked his pies without, and over time, he made a convert out of me. Now, I bake about half my pecan pies the way he liked them. (For crustless pies, remember: Pam is your friend, spray with abandon.)
Pecan pie? Crustless and frozen? With vanilla ice cream?
As granddaughter Eleanor might say, clapping her hands, “Goody! Goody!!”
Another Center of the Universe moment: For many years Newberrian Gene Norris taught high school English in Beaufort. His former student and quintessential Southern author, Pat Conroy, once came to Newberry for an Opera House fundraiser and was served this pie. A good time was had by all, and Conroy requested the recipe.
Be still, my heart.
Thank you, Gene Norris, for sharing this Newberry pie with a man whose powerful words are beloved around the world—and by Barbara Streisand.
Thank you, Newberry….
I started this food column with a “you’re welcome” to those who were wise enough to plant a pecan tree 10 years ago.
I’d like to close with a “thank you” to those who have come along with me on this amazing, 10-year ride. You have been generous in your support, in sharing recipes and offering comments—and laughing in all the right places.
If you’d asked me 10 years ago what was my role with the magazine, I’d have answered, “Generations of women in my family prepared me to be a food editor with the Newberry Magazine.”
For a while, that answer led some folks to consider me a good cook. They wrote in to correct my recipes, to help me along.
Finally, I had to admit, “No. I’m not a good cook. I just play one in the magazine.”
It took a while, but I think I finally figured out my role here. I am a food humorist.
Perhaps America’s first and only, but definitely more a food humorist than a good cook.
The road to that realization was long and convoluted, but you shared it with me every step of the way. I appreciate your company more than words can say (and as I writer, I don’t say that lightly).
Together we tried recipes from many fine cooks, among them the late Clara Haigler and Libby Johnson and Joyce Ringer. We also enjoyed savories and sweets from Michelle Bedenbaugh, Liz MacDonald, Jessie Bannister, Diane Hartness, Danny Moore, Brandon Draeger, and a host of ladies and gentlemen whose recipes were published in church and community cookbooks. We celebrated Newberry heritage recipes, too: Aunt Polly’s cold oven poundcake, Johnnie’s donuts, Hun Kinard’s chili.
More importantly, we explored the humor in edibles such as: “plain not self-rising” chicken and dumplings, Uncle Hal’s Bullbat-time martinis, “ugly duckling dessert” stickies, catch-your-own fried rabbit, 12 days of Christmas balls, your best-ever-tomato-sandwich, flaming persimmon pudding, fried corn vs. creamed corn, and the Newberry Fair (ooh-la-la) corndogs.
Sometimes along the way, the food was good, and other times the food was so-so.
Always, the people were great.
And the laughter? It was sweet as…
Oh my, pecan pie.
Looking forward to the next 10, y’all. Now, go plant a pecan tree—
And thank you, thank you ‘Berry much
Newberry Pecan Pie
A Holiday Tradition
1 c. light corn syrup
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
1 c. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vinegar (plain apple cider works; fancy balsamic does not)
1-1/2 c. pecans, chopped *
-Mix ingredients for filling; add pecans last. (Make sure butter is cooled, so as not to “scramble” the eggs.)
-Pour into pastry shell.
-Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes to set; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30-35 minutes. When pecan pie is done, outer edges of filling should be set, center slightly soft.
* For local pecans, visit Cousins Agri-Center, 625 Nance St, Newberry (803) 276-5750