Pecan pie is a uniquely American dessert native to the southern region of the U.S. While its history is somewhat unclear, there is no doubt that pecan pie soared in popularity in the early twentieth century and has since been a holiday staple on many American dinner tables. With its sweet, nutty flavor and incomparable custard-like texture, pecan pie is full of flavor, making it one of the most frequently eaten pies in the country.
The origin of pecan pie has long been traced to the early French settlement of Louisiana, but no known written recipe for pecan pie has been found dated before the early twentieth century. Pecan trees were indigenous to the Americas and grew throughout much of the southern United States, making it quite possible that the French and other European settlers were using the nuts in various desserts. However, the twentieth century and the makers of Karo corn syrup, a primary ingredient of pecan pie, helped to make pecan pie a popular, more widespread dessert.
Pecan pie is considered a southern dish, and while it is still more popular in the south, it is also commonly eaten throughout the United States. The southern states produce over 250 million pounds of pecans each year, with Texas and Georgia pecan groves comprising the majority of that amount. Since pecan trees are native to the south and fresh pecans are readily available throughout the region, pecan pie and other pecan desserts have always been more prevalent, and thus more popular, in the southern United States.
As with pumpkin pie, pecan pie is generally eaten during the fall and winter holidays due to the harvesting schedule of pecans. Pecan trees shed pecans from September to December where they then ripen on the ground. The pecans are harvested off of the ground and then either shelled and sold as packaged nuts to make pecan pies and other pecan dishes or sold unshelled for later use.
Pecan pie is a common dessert at both Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday celebrations, especially in the south.
Pecan pie is made using an unbaked pastry pie shell and relatively few simple ingredients. The filling of pecan pie, when cooked correctly, has a custard-like texture but should maintain its shape when cut into wedges.
While there are several different ways to make pecan pie, the two most important ingredients of a pecan pie are pecans and corn syrup. Pecan halves or chopped pecan pieces can be used to make pecan pie, as well as either light or dark brown sugar and light or dark corn syrup. Pecan pie is most commonly made from chopped pecans, light brown sugar, and light corn syrup.
For a typical 9-inch pecan pie 2 tbsp. of shortening, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 2 tbsp. of flour should be creamed in a large bowl. Next, 1 cup of corn syrup should be added to the mixture and beaten well. Then, 3 eggs, 1 tsp. of vanilla, and ¾ tsp. of salt should be added and mixed well. Last, 1 cup of either broken pecans or pecan halves should be added to the filling mixture. The pecan pie should then be baked at 400ºF for 15 minutes and then 325ºF for 30 minutes. The center of the pecan pie should be browned on top but the filling should only be just set and not firm.
Pecan pie can be served alone or with plain or flavored whipped cream. While the standard pecan pie is the most traditional, today many southern chefs have put their own spin on the classic dessert by creating whiskey and chocolate versions of pecan pie.
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