This is our family’s classic pecan pie recipe, inspired by my grandmother.
My Grandma Ebright was many things…
She was the faithful wife of a Kansas wheat farmer for sixty years, proud mother of five, and involved grandmother of thirteen.
She was a lover of singing, and insisted that anyone born or married in her family learn how to do so loudly, in four-part harmony, and with smiles, especially while caroling nursing homes together each Christmas.
She was a voracious reader, flying through nearly a book a day in her later years and then eagerly passing them along to her friends and family, although she prided herself on always reading the last page first.
She was a hard worker, graduating early and completing a degree so that she could teach in a 1-room rural schoolhouse, then picking up to help serve in WWII, then running a farm for decades while raising five kids on a shoestring budget, then later being a faithful caretaker for my grandpa with Alzheimer’s in the last years of his life.
She was a writer as well and officially published her first book in her eighties, although my favorite writings were the pages upon pages of handwritten letters that she faithfully mailed to each of her grandkids every few months.
She was sharp as a tack, and was a fierce believer in raising her family — especially the daughters and granddaughters — to appreciate and seek intelligence.
She was a matchmaker, and never passed up the opportunity to introduce herself to an attractive stranger in hopes that they might be the perfect match for one of her grandkids.
She was o-pin-ion-ated, for better and worse, and never resisted a moment to share her thoughts (even if whispering a little too loudly in church about a lady’s purple hair).
She was a firecracker. She was thoughtful. She was stubborn. She was giving. She was hilarious. She was creative. She was loyal. She was my grandma.
And she was an expert baker of pecan pie.
Actually, of the many things she was, my grandma would be the first to tell you that she did not consider herself a cook. She would much rather be spending time with people than “couped up” in the kitchen. So she was a big fan of treating our extended family to the local Pizza Hut or a round of chocolate-dipped cones at Dairy Queen.
But when we did all gather together to eat at home, she knew how to rock a huge batch of chicken and noodles, salty and butter sweet corn, “chip chocolate” cookies, and some good ol’ fashioned homemade pecan pie.
Her homemade pecan pies (pronounced peh-cahn, in Kansas) were classic — sweet, simple and overflowing with buttered pecans.
And they were always meant for sharing.
So it seemed only fitting that for my first week of really teaching myself how to bake pies, I begin with the first pie I ever knew — Grandma’s Pecan Pie.
I did brown the butter to give this version an extra nuttier, delicious flavor. And I’m pretty sure my grandma would have cracked up at me taking the extra time to line the top of the pecan pie with extra pecans. (Yes, I was the picky-eating granddaughter who used to always prefer playing with my food, rather than actually eating it.)
But I’m pretty sure she would have been proud, and even happier to know that this one was shared with a bunch of people I really love.
So Grandma, this one’s for you. Love you! :)
My grandma, cousins and me in 2009. Tiny lady. Big heart.
2 cups pecan halves (plus extras to line the top, if desired)
Partially pre-bake a pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan according to its instructions, then heat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and cinnamon; add eggs and whisk until smooth.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until the butter turns brown and fragrant. Slowly pour butter into the sugar mixture, and whisk to combine. Chop the pecans, then stir them into the butter and sugar mixture until combined. Then pour the entire filling into the prepared pie crust. If desired, line the top of the filling with extra pecans.
Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the filling is set. And by “set”, I mean that the filling will probably be slightly jiggly, but not too sloshy. If it’s too sloshy, don’t hesitate to add it back in for another 10-20 minutes (for some reason, baking times can be very different with pecan pies). If the edges of the crust begin to turn too brown, briefly remove the pie from the oven and cover the crust with a pie crust shield or loosely wrap with aluminum foil, then return to the oven. Once the filling is set, remove the pie and let cool completely on cooling rack, 3 to 4 hours, before slicing.
*If you would rather not use corn syrup, feel free to sub in 1/2 cup brown sugar plus 1/2 cup maple syrup instead.