These are the traditional Southern pecan pralines, creamy and tender, and that will melt in your mouth with exceptional flavor. Tried and true, but be sure to make them on a day with humidity no higher than 60% for best results.3 cups sugar
1 cup Bavarian-style buttermilk
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups chopped pecans (or walnuts or almonds)
Butter (or lightly spray with Pam) 2 large cookie sheets and line them with waxed paper, and set aside. (The butter/Pam is used to solidly hold the waxed paper still in the pan.)
In a heavy, tall-sided saucepan, run a stick of butter around the inside of the pan about four inches above the bottom to create a 2-inch wide, light “ring” of butter. (This will help keep the mixture from climbing too high, as well as to help prevent the formation of crystals on the side of the pan during boiling.)
Combine the sugar, buttermilk, butter, corn syrup, baking soda and salt in the saucepan and place the pan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar completely dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer.
Attach your candy thermometer and raise the heat to medium, bringing the mixture to a rolling boil without stirring. Continue to cook, stirring only occasionally, until the mixture reaches 260 degrees (F) (hard ball stage).
Remove from heat and add the vanilla and pecans. Stir gently and slowly until the pecans are coated. Continue to stir slowly, but just to the point that the praline syrup begins to thicken and takes on a “creamy” (less translucent) appearance. This is the point where the sucrose is crystallizing. It should take no more than ten or twelve passes with a spatula through the praline syrup. (Too much stirring can cause the candy to become a grainy, dry-as-a-board mess…although still darned delicious.)
Drop tablespoonsful of the candy onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving space between each for spreading. Let the candy sit at room temperature until it is cool and firm (about 1 hour).
Peel the candies off the waxed paper and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, place the candies on waxed paper trimmed to fit inside a Tupperware container. Layer the candy-laden sheets on top of each other, remove as much air from the container as possible and freeze for up to three months.