Just a warning to you all, if I may: It's almost Christmas time, and it's very likely the next few weeks will consist almost entirely of holiday sweets.
There will be pies, cookies, cakes, perhaps even cordials and candies. But if it's vegetables you're looking for, you may want to wander away for a bit.
It's not the worst thing, however—so many sweets. It might be a bit rough on the waistline, and put your head in the clouds. But when it comes to your wallet, good cheer, even the planet—there are worse things in gift giving than cakes.
Which brings me to the pecan pie. It's the best sort of gifts—twice given—though not in the usual fashion. The pecans arrived the other day in a large box, wrapped up with packing paper and a note. They were an engagement present, my mom's college friend Patty said, to wish us well on our way.
I have to say, they were my favorite yet. (Although to be fair, when your mother sends Miss Manner's and a wedding etiquette note, it isn't too hard to compete.) They were from a long tradition of Smith women, who sold Georgia pecans to raise money for the school's scholarship fund. They were fresh packed just a few weeks ago at a Glennville farm, Patty wrote, not exactly local, but still an east coast agricultural gift.
In the spirit of the holiday season, I was delighted with this foodshed exchange. (This is, after all, the month of extravagance, and it wasn't so very long ago that finding an orange in the tip of your stocking was the most exciting of Christmas morning delights.) I wasted no time calling my mother for a pie recipe, mixing fresh nuts with sugar and eggs. It baked slowly, gelling suddenly, top browned, and I left it to cool overnight.
This afternoon I'll take pecans and crust to Woods Hole, my contribution to a holiday lunch. The best part is the pecans are now given twice, the merriment well spread out the Cape.
adapted from the Joy of Cooking, both the 1964 & 1975 editions
Makes 1 pie
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Shape a single pie crust (the flakier the better) to fit a 9-inch pan. Flute the edges, and fill the crust with coffee, dry beans, or clean rocks (this will prevent it from bubbling up during cooking or falling in). Prebake for 5 to 7 minutes, and turn the oven down to 375.
In a large mixing bowl, cream 1/4 cup butter and 1 cup brown or white sugar (if you use molasses, it is better to use white, brown if you stick with corn syrup). Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. Stir in 1/2 cup molasses or light corn syrup, 1 tablespoon rum, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 1 heaping cup pecans, broken, and pour this filling into the crust.
Bake about 40 minutes or until filling begins to set; remove from the oven immediately as the pie will gel further as it cools. Serve warm or cool with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.