Pee Can Pie
One can know a fair amount about a person simply by hearing her say the word “pecan.” To hear it said as if it were a poor person’s chamber pot, “pee-can,” tells me a few important things.
1. The person to whom I’m speaking is from the deep south, from the places where sprawling pecan orchards grace the roadsides—Georgia, northern Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Places where summer heat comes in the form of a wet blanket laid across the landscape by mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Places where everyone knows how to crack a nut using only another nut and their grip, sometimes while spitting tobacco.
2. Most likely this person embraces tradition and her Southern roots. “Puhkahns” are for the more modern Southerners or people who don’t know better—for people who can drive in the snow.
And 3. It’s a pretty good bet that whoever this is not only has a strong opinion about pie made from this particular nut, but also can either make that pie or call his mama and get one within the next two hours.
Whole pecans or finely chopped? White Karo syrup, dark or light? Whiskey or no whiskey? Homemade crust or no? Every Southerner worth her salt has an opinion.
For every family meal, Mama was expected to bring a pecan pie (accompanied by a chocolate one), and more than one person has been forked over the last sliver of those pies. (I might or might not have done some of the forking.)
It’s a simple dessert made with a lot of love, perfected over decades of get-togethers. The recipe is on any bottle of Karo Corn Syrup, but somehow if it’s not done with love it’s just missing something. That love started with her, is transferred here, and will resonate every time you make one. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine always has.
Velma Adams’s Pecan Pie
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1c Karo syrup (dark or light)
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2c pecans
1 unbaked 9” pie shell
Slightly beat the eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl then add the Karo syrup, sugar, butter, and vanilla and gently beat together. Mama did all of this with a fork. Most often, she used light Karo syrup, and those always seemed to be the best, but honestly, in our house, mixing a little bit of all three kinds to make up a full cup wasn’t unusual. While Mama loved generics, she always paid the extra for Karo brand syrup and Martha White flour for cooking. As for whether she chopped the pecans or left them whole, she chopped them. I do, too.
Once you mix those first ingredients well, you can add in the pecans—however you’ve decided to put them in—and stir well.
When you pour that bowl of goodness into the unbaked pie crust, it won’t matter if it’s homemade or Pillsbury (Mama was usually short on time and most often used the Pillsbury), it’s going to look like it’s about to overflow. And it might do just that in the process of cooking, so put it on a cookie sheet before you put it in the oven preheated to 350 degrees.
At somewhere around 50-55 minutes, if you stick a knife halfway between the center and the edge, it should come out clean which means it’s done. Of course, that leaves a hole in your pie. With time, you’ll be able to tap the center of the pie and tell when it’s fully baked which looks like a little bit of magic to the untrained eye, like you’re impervious to heat and have the gift of divination.
Thereafter, every stage of time has it’s benefits. Hot pecan pie with vanilla ice cream is pretty damn yummy, but the next day, when everything has sort of caramelized and gotten chewy, that has an appeal all its own.
And for the record, I can drive in the snow.