Pecan pie has been a beloved South Carolina tradition since the late 1800s, often served for dessert during the holidays and at special meals year-round. Like their tea, South Carolinians traditionally prefer their pies on the sweet side, which supports the old Southern baker’s saying that a pie should be “sweet enough so that the fillings in your teeth hurt.”
South Carolina Pecan Pie with Chef Jessica Shillato
A connoisseur of pecan pie, Chef Jessica Shillato of Columbia’s Spotted Salamander Cafe & Catering is one of the five Chef Ambassadors selected to represent South Carolina for 2019. She pays homage to her southern roots and culinary traditions by dressing classic southern dishes with fresh accouterments that surprise and delight.
“My first memory of pecan pie is from when I was about 10 years old or so. It was at Thanksgiving, and I remember that warm, gooey pecan pie and cold ice cream just melting together, and it was just so delicious,” she says. “I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother when I was little. I come from a family that appreciates cooking very much. Growing up, my sister and I would make pecan pie every holiday and it’s still a must-have at every holiday.”
Based on an old family recipe that includes cornmeal, it took years and hundreds of pies for her to discover her secret ingredient—vinegar—which ensures her pie comes out with a little more fluff and a little more flavor.
“The fall is pecan harvest season,” she explains. “That’s when they’re the best. We’re so lucky to have such wonderful pecans grown right here in South Carolina. It really gives our pies something extra special and I love being able to support our local farmers.”
South Carolina’s pecan industry is centered around the city of Florence, where there’s a Pecan Trail that visitors can follow, learning about the pecan and enjoying unique pecan-based dishes, spanning everything from beer to pizza to salads.
There are a lot of variations to pecan pie, but the important thing is to follow the recipe and you won’t go wrong.
“My number one tip for making pecan pie is to remember that it’s probably the easiest pie you can make, so just relax and enjoy yourself. And use homemade pie dough, it really makes a huge difference. It’s easy to make and tastes so much better.”
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 8 servings
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup salted butter, chilled
¼ cup ice water
Pecans for Topping
2 cups pecan halves
2 tablespoons salted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup melted butter (cooled slightly)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 cups buttered pecans
First, prepare your dough. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut butter into mixture and combine until it resembles coarse crumbs about the size of garden peas. Mix in water a few drops at a time until mixture forms a ball.
Dust table with extra flour. Roll out pie dough large enough to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Place crust in pie pan. Press dough to bottom and sides and style the crust. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Next, toast pecans with butter in a skillet on medium heat. Chef Shillato recommends adding butter and pecans at the same time to avoid browning the butter before the pecans toast. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare filling. In a large bowl mix eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, butter, vanilla, vinegar and cornmeal. Combine until smooth.
Add pie filling mixture to pie pan. Top with 2 cups toasted pecans.
Cook pie on 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes. If the crust is in danger of burning, cover it with foil. Let cool. Serve pie at room temperature.
For more South Carolina recipes, visit DiscoverSouthCarolina.com/Recipes.