No matter how you pronounce the word, pecans are the quintessential Southern nut. Pecans are grown commercially throughout Alabama, but even folks who didn’t grow up on a farm can probably remember picking up pecans year after year from a few trees in their grandma’s yard or buying bags of them from a neighbor and spending long afternoons practicing the perfect shelling method. Or maybe they have memories of stopping at Priester’s Pecans on their way to Mobile for some pecan-centric treats.
Pecans are an important part of America’s culture — and cuisine. Out of an abundance of this buttery, rich nut comes plenty of regional recipes. Pecans can swing sweet or savory, and they’re found in just about every section of most Southern cookbooks.
Priester’s Pecans co-owner Ellen Burkett certainly grew up eating pecans and carries an extra dose of Southern nostalgia for the nut.
“My mom always cooked with pecans — I remember her making little fruitcakes for our teachers all through school, and she loved to put pecans in cookies,” Ellen said. “Really, I don’t think she ever made desserts that didn’t include pecans.”
During her childhood, Ellen worked at her family’s little pecan retail store off Interstate 65, and she’s watched it grow to become one of the state’s favorite food attractions.
And even though her life revolves around pecans, Ellen says she never gets tired of eating them.
“I’m always grabbing a handful of pecans to snack on,” she says. “I love to bake with pecans like my mother did, and I put them in salads, on my cereal, in oatmeal … I could go on and on. I eat them almost every day.”