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Mom used to make these, but for some reason when I was a kid I didn't much care for them. Now I love pralines and can't for the life of me figure out what I didn't like then. Jay thinks that the only good pralines come from the south (made by large African-American women stirring huge kettles, he says!), but curiously Mom's recipe is almost an exact duplicate of one I saw recently from someone who lives in the southern US. So this is authentic!

2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons butter
2-1/3 cups pecan halves

Mix sugar and baking soda together in large heavy kettle; add the buttermilk and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom continually until it reaches 218 F. Add the butter and pecans, continue cooking to 230 F. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Beat until creamy and drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Note: other recipes I've seen tell you to cook mixture to the soft ball stage (235-240) and THEN add the butter and pecans. And, they don't all say to beat the mixture after it's cooked. Also, if you want to add a teaspoon of vanilla, add it along with the butter and pecans.

Praline is a confection made of nut kernels, especially almonds or pecans, stirred in boiling sugar syrup until crisp and brown. It may be eaten as candy, ground and used as a filling or dessert ingredient, or sprinkled atop desserts as a garnish. Supposedly, the Duke of Plessis-Praslin's cook, Clement Lassagne, invented the treat and named it after the Duke (the "s" was later dropped). After retiring, he founded the Maison de la Praline: the confectioner's shop which still exists in the town of Montargis, south of Paris.