Cluster Candies & Pecan Pie: How Tucker Pecan Turns Nuts into Sweet Tradition
Who: Tucker Pecan Company
What: Southern pecans
Where: Montgomery, Alabama
Whether you pronounce it pee-can or puh-con, there’s a good chance you’ll be enjoying this nut, native to the South, in at least a few sweet treats as we approach the holiday season. Pecans and chocolate (or caramel, or honey) are great together. At Tucker Pecan Company, they’re a match made in heaven.
A Sweet Spot
The pecan-shelling company has been in business since 1952, but started selling a variety of flavored pecans and pecan candies a little over a decade ago. “Our customers wanted some pecan products in addition to the shelled pecans, so we decided to try it,” says David Little, president of the company.
They started by letting another company make candy using their pecans as a major ingredient, but the results didn’t meet David’s standards. “They just weren’t the quality we wanted, so we brought the candy making in-house,” he says. Opening its own kitchens and hiring a chef allowed Tucker Pecan to turn out prettier, fresher candies and develop recipes and create items unique to the company.
“We make everything look good; we eat with our eyes first. And we cook in small batches, so it is always super fresh,” says Little. That includes pecan logs — with fluffy marshmallow centers smothered in caramel and then hand-rolled in crushed pecans — as well as pralines, the iconic Southern delight.
It also helps the company cut down on waste. “We use every bit of every pecan,” says Little. “When we’re left with broken pieces, we use those for our ‘cluster’ candies.” Tucker also makes a sugary, salty flavor extravaganza called the drumstick, a pretzel stick rolled in caramel and chopped pecans, and then covered with milk chocolate.
But sometimes, basic is still best. “The good ol’ chocolate-covered pecans are consistently our best seller,” says Little. “But my favorite is the honey-glazed covered in white chocolate.”
It’s a Family Tradition
While Tucker’s candy accounts for an important part of its sales – it sells approximately 100,000 pounds annually — for Leslie Tucker Little, vice president and granddaughter of the company’s founder, it’s about more than making money. She believes the pecans and pecan products they make and sell help others make memories.
“I think pecans equal tradition in the South, especially around the holidays,” she says. “They are an integral part of many special holiday dishes in our region, dishes that bring family and friends together around good food.” They add their buttery flavor and crunch to plenty of desserts, as well as some savory recipes, but they shine the brightest starring in their own pie, an essential element of many Southern Thanksgiving feasts.
With this in mind, an admission from David is a little surprising: “I’m not really a pecan pie guy myself,” he says. “But I know ours is good. Folks tell us all the time how much they love it. We use a mixture of half light and half dark syrup, and that means it’s not as sweet or thick and heavy. It’s a good balance where you can really taste the nuts.”