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Despite the need for a candy thermometer, these are a fairly straightforward snack that keeps for weeks and are a delicious combination of sweet and slightly savory. The pepper works so well with the hint of orange, but it must be fresh cracked pepper.
2 cups pecans
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Fresh cracked pepper to taste (about 1-2 tsp)
1/3 cup Wild Turkey American Honey Sting
1/3 cup water
Zest and juice of 1 orange
First thing, we need to toast the pecans. It’s going to give the nuts a more robust flavor, and it’s also going to give them a crunch that will help them stand up to the candy coating. I toast mine on a sheet tray with parchment at 350° for about 5 minutes. They will take on a slightly darker color and begin to smell pretty amazing.
Keep the tray and paper out because the finished pecans are going right back on it.
For the syrup, combine the sugar, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cracked pepper), water and liquor. If you can’t find this unique bourbon, then a regular bourbon or rum would work as well, but I love this one because it has a subtle heat from the ghost pepper that works so well with the sweet and pepper.
Next up, zest and juice the orange. This is going to give the recipe a nice zing and fragrance.
Stir everything so that it’s all combined and there are no sugar clumps that can burn on the bottom of the pan.
Using a candy thermometer, you want to bring the syrup up to 238-240° (which is the soft ball stage). As soon as it hits this temperature, remove from the heat immediately. If it goes higher, the syrup will be much harder when it dries and will result in a harder candy coating (which isn’t always a bad thing, but we don’t want to break any teeth on something that is meant to be chewed).
I used my parchment as a funnel and poured the pecans into the syrup all at once. Be careful, as the sugar is very hot!
Stir until the pecans are completely covered. Scoop pecans out onto the parchment.
Work quickly so that there aren’t huge clumps of pecans as the syrup will begin to harden. You can break it up afterward, but it results in broken nuts and chunks.
I added more cracked pepper to the top of this batch because I wanted the extra spiciness. You can skip if you like, but it also adds a “pretty” element.
Once cooled, store in an airtight container. These are good for several weeks, so you can make them ahead if you want them for an event or if you want to give them as a gift.