My grandma's 3-ingredient orange pecans are a beloved family recipe with a bright burst of flavor (2024)

RECIPE

The texture from the zest and syrup makes them appear as though they're wrapped in soft, fuzzy sweaters

By Bibi Hutchings

Columnist

Published November 2, 2023 1:30PM (EDT)

My grandma's 3-ingredient orange pecans are a beloved family recipe with a bright burst of flavor (1)

Grandma Frannie's Orange Pecan Recipe(Photo illustration by Salon/Photo courtesy of Bibi Hutchings/Getty Images)

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Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.

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We don’t have too much in common with California along the Gulf Coast, but from October to December, we do — at least in terms of our rich bounty of fruit.

By mid- to late October, nearly every yard along any route taken is blooming in shades of crisp, lemon yellows to deep, rich pumpkin oranges with endless types of juicy, sweet globes of what some of us call edible sunshine. In almost neon shades, a multitude of spherical citrus shines through the intense green leaves of the trees upon which they hang so heavily.

These beautiful sights, along with clearer, even bluer than usual, seemingly endless skies mark the beginning of our most wonderful time of the year: fall.

From limes and Meyer lemons to numerous varieties of mandarin oranges, we're blessed with fruit. Persimmons, grapefruit, kumquats and perhaps the most delectable and elusive of all the mandarins: the tiny, seedless kishus — all of these little lovelies thrive in our climate. Try not to be jealous as you come up with more and more ways to use your overflowing farmer’s box full of turnips and the like, and I'll try not to brag as I join my neighbors happy dancing in appreciation of citrus season.

We have a sour lemon and a Meyer lemon, two satsumas, a lime and a grapefruit tree in our backyard, but the satsumas come in first, with the rest following into December. The satsumas are glorious: the sweetest gift after such a long, hot summer.

As soon as they're ready to pick, my little community goes a little satsuma-wild: Five o’clock co*cktails from to spritzers get jazzed up with splashes of fresh squeezed juice, while homemade vinaigrettes, morning smoothies, muffins and cookies get their fair share as well.

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Satsumas make everything better . . . including my grandmother’s Orange Pecans

Frannie, my maternal grandmother, made these mouthwatering candied pecans throughout my life. Recently, Jim, my mom’s only sibling and Frannie’s only son, unearthed a recipe card she mailed to him Christmas of 1991 with her recipe for Orange Pecans all written out.

Between my uncle holding on to all the family recipes he has managed to acquire over the years and my doing the same, the two of us now have quite the catalog. Our personal collections grew exponentially these last few years when Frannie passed away late in 2020 at the age of 97 and my mom just two years later. Despite being thrilled to have their recipes more accessible now, it's bittersweet to see mom’s and Frannie’s hand-written cards, most with smears, oil stains and other marks of splatter from years of use.

My grandma's 3-ingredient orange pecans are a beloved family recipe with a bright burst of flavor (2)Grandma Frannie's Orange Pecans recipe card, back (Photo courtesy of Bibi Hutchings)This one of Frannie’s for Orange Pecans not only has the usual measured ingredients and directions, but also a little note of encouragement. “Good Luck,” she writes to Jim, with a flourish at the end.

These pecans look as festive as they are delicious. The texture from the zest and syrup makes them appear as though they are wrapped in soft, fuzzy sweaters. (At least that is what I thought when I was a kid.) They taste bright like sunshine and are irresistibly scrumptious. I'm betting they will be the freshest “candy” you will ever put into your mouth.

As much as I would like to tell you that I reduce the sugar when I make these, I can’t . . . because I don’t. They're so good that I can only bring myself to use a light hand when measuring out my sugar, but I pretty much adhere to the recipe as written. Truth is, you need the proper ratio of juice and sugar for the syrup to boil into the right thickness so that the pecans get coated just right. Other than using a measure-for-measure alternative sweetener, which I have never done when making Orange Pecans, you wouldn't get the same result if you just haphazardly reduced the sugar.

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Plan on the fact that you won't be able to resist eating them and eating them and eating them. And they're rich — so rich that I can make myself nearly sick from not being able to stay out of them. Needless to say, I only have them around when I can share with plenty of people. They're perfect for this time of year and make the prettiest gift simply placed in a cellophane bag and tied with a ribbon.

From start to finish — counting the time for me to walk out and pick a satsuma off my tree (I can't help but brag) — I can have these Orange Pecans ready in less than 10 minutes. They're seriously quick and easy.

They cool in a jiffy and are ready to serve almost as fast as you make them. My family loves them, my extended family loves them and my friends and neighbors do, too. And they will be just as delectable when you make them — even if you don’t have fresh satsuma juice from a satsuma picked from you very own satsuma tree in your very own backyard like I do.

Frannie's Orange Pecans

Yields

3 cups

Prep Time

5 minutes

Cook Time

5minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups raw pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Orange zest

Directions

  1. Place the sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over low-medium heat.

  2. Bring to a low simmer and add the orange zest, then the pecans.

  3. Stir constantly and “cook” the pecans until the sugar mixture has completely coated them all and none is left.

  4. Turn out onto a nonstick surface to cool before breaking apart.

Cook's Notes

- Satsuma, tangerine or clementine juice works, too. The choice of juice is absolutely up to you.

- Use as much orange zest as you like, but only use 1/4 cup of juice. For reference, I generally use the majority of zest scraped from one whole satsuma, which is about the size of a tangerine.

- It's optional to add a little vanilla, but I have never done it. Vanilla is written as an option on my grandmother’s recipe card, but the amount isn't specified.

Read more

about beloved family recipes

  • Unlike lots of recipes for pecan pies, this one is tried and true
  • This lemon meringue pie helped me both celebrate and mourn my mother
  • In my family, celebrations call for these sweet, spicy "party pecans" and cheese wafers

By Bibi Hutchings

Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

CandyFamily RecipeFoodOrangesPecansRecipeSouthern Food

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