Pecan Pie & a Jigger of Bourbon

Gina Lorubbio

Copenhagen, Denmark

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A few hours south of Montgomery, Alabama, I finally learned why pecan pie is so often on the dessert table.

On our drive up the highway, we saw a sign for Harper Orchards pecans. Then another. And another. Of course, we had to stop. We followed arrows into a thick, drizzly forest and arrived at the quaint storefront. As we’d soon learn, this section of Alabama gets over 70 inches of rain per year, and pecans love it.

We walked in and were greeted in that warm, Southern way by Julie Harper, who married into the family business. She took time between taking orders for 10, 20, and even 30 pounds of pecans to answer my very important question: How does one properly pronounce “pecan”?

She lit right up, and walked over to a poster to demonstrate. The top of the poster showed a row of port-a-potties. “These are pee cans,” it reads, and, then underneath, on top of a photo of pecans, “These are not.” Julie proclaims, “In the South, we say ‘pick-ahn.’”

Because nuts have such a long shelf life, I spend little time pondering when they’re actually picked. But there’s a reason why we make pecan pie for Thanksgiving: November is the height of their harvest.

What a glorious way to celebrate a fresh pull of pecans: mixing them with sweet syrup, pouring them into a buttery shell, and baking until they’re a deep, caramelized brown. Julie recommends, depending on your audience of eaters, adding a jigger of bourbon to the treat.

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