Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spiced Pecans

My friend Kimm Walton (author of Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams), "introduced" me to Ann Hodgman several years ago when she sent me a copy of Beat That! (1995, Chapters Publishing, Ltd., Shelburne, VT). Kimm and I have discussed going to Ann's house to worship in her front yard in gracious grateful thanks for SPICED PECANS. This book is full of other fabulous things, including Snow Pea Salad (best on earth!), Cranberry Chutney, Ginger Honey, and Ginger Squares (a very pleasant surprise for someone grabbing a Blondie.)

But on to the pecans...I first made these for a party, dutifully following the recipe and making one pound. The guests inhaled them until there was but one left. It was on the floor and people were circling, but one of my cats batted it away. Never again have I made fewer than 5 pounds, which freeze beautifully, becoming pantry staples. If you must make fewer than 5 pounds, do the math yourself.

This is a two-day or early a.m. and then late p.m. project. Don't be intimidated. All you have to do is boil water, divide by four, turn on the oven, stir the nuts while they bake, and then toss them with spices when they are brown.

SPICED PECANS (adapted from Beat That!)

Day 1 - STEP 1: Boil the pecans

Day 1 - STEP 2: Soak the pecans at room temperature
Day 2 - STEP 3: 12-24 hours later, bake at 350 degrees (conventional or convection),stirring every 5-10 minutes until they are deep deep brown.
Day 2 - STEP 4: Toss with spices

5 pounds of whole raw pecans, divided by four
a large pot of boiling water
a colander for draining

4 bowls that you can cover with plastic
2 cups white sugar, divided by four
2 sticks of butter, divided by four
8 T light corn syrup, divided by four
4-8 T vanilla

Mix the following in a small bowl, and divide by four.
1-1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1-1/2 tsp ground allspice
1-1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper (white pepper is nice)

1. STEP 1 BOIL Boil the water. Boil each bowl of pecans for 1 minute. 

2.  STEP 2 SOAK  Drain carefully, and toss with the melted butter, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Store covered at room temperature.

3. STEP 3 BAKE 12-24 hours later...In a 350 degree oven (or, better yet, in a 350 degree convection oven), bake each bowl of pecans until they are quite brown. Ann Hodgman says to aim for "deep, mahogany brown." Less than that and they won't be crisp. This goes quickly with two baking sheets at a time.  A word to the wise: do not walk away from this task, and do not imagine that you can do this without stirring.

4. STEP 4 TOSS Mix the spices and divide into four small bowls. When your nuts are brown, return them to their soaking bowls and toss with 1/4 of the spices. Cool on a baking sheet. Store in zipper bags in the freezer.


1. Why don't you have four bowls?
2. Bake these on the weapons-grade rimmed baking sheets that come from restaurant supply houses (Hockenbergs in the Twin Cities).
3. Buy your nuts from a wholesaler (Bergin Nut Co., in the Twin Cities) or from a co-op.

4. This is a surprising flexible recipe. I have mistaken curry for cinnamon and no one complained. It was an honest mistake and they are near to one another in my alphabetically organized spice rack, a habit leftover from years of representing Spice Islands when I worked for a San Francisco-based food broker.)

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