They’re the only nut native to North America. They were a staple in the diets of Native Americans, who made them into what could be considered the original nut milk.

They’re especially prolific in the Southeastern United States, so much so that they’ve been declared Alabama’s official state nut (insert your own punchline here).

No matter how you pronounce it — peh-KAHN or PEE-can — the pecan has a storied place in Southern history. The first recipe for pecan pie was published in 1886. But don’t limit yourself to just pie this holiday season.

ROASTED PECANS

These are also good for snacking or tossing into salads.

  • 2 cups raw pecan halves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. In a bowl, toss the warm pecans with the olive oil and sea salt. Return the pecans to the tray in a single layer and bake another 20 minutes or until slightly browned and dry. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. Store pecans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to nine months or in the freezer for up to two years. Pecans can be thawed and frozen repeatedly during the two-year freezing period without loss of flavor or texture.

BAKED BRIE WITH PECANS AND CRANBERRY ORANGE CHUTNEY

  • 1 (12 ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon, optional
  • 1 (13.4 ounce) round brie
  • ½ cup roasted pecan pieces (recipe above)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries (save a few for the final garnish) with the maple syrup and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and immediately stir in orange zest and juice, thyme, rosemary and bourbon (if using).

While the chutney cools, place the brie on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the inside of cheese has softened while the outside remains intact.

Transfer the brie to a serving platter and top with chutney and roasted pecans. Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup over the brie and garnish with fresh thyme and a few fresh cranberries. Serve immediately with crackers, toasted bread and apple slices.

— American Pecan Council

PIMENTO CHEESE AND PECAN PULL-APART BREAD

For simpler preparation, use store-bought dough instead of homemade.

For the dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed slightly
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or cooking spray

For the filling:

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup pecan pieces
  • 1 (4-ounce) jar of diced pimentos, drained and patted dry with a paper towel

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and instant yeast. Allow to stand for 5 to 7 minutes, until foamy.

To the bowl of a stand-up mixer, with the hook attachment, add the yeast/milk mixture, melted butter, eggs, salt and flour. Turn the mixer on medium speed and knead for 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough has formed a smooth ball.

Rub the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil or coat with cooking spray and transfer the dough to the bowl. Grease the top of the ball of dough and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Spray or oil a 9-inch round cake pan or baking dish. Liberally flour your work surface and roll the dough into a 12x12-inch square about ½-inch thick. Cut into 36 squares. Roll the squares into balls.

Place half of the balls into the prepared pan and top with half of the cheese, pecans and pimentos. Add the other half of dough balls and top with the remaining cheese, pecans and pimentos. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise, in a warm place, for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and puffed.

— American Pecan Council

PECAN-CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup pecan pieces
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a large baking dish. Season pork tenderloin with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and minced garlic. Spread mixture over the top of the pork.

Press chopped pecans onto the brown sugar mixture on the pork. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

While pork is cooking, prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, pineapple juice and Dijon mustard. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

Slice pork, spoon sauce over the top and serve.

— American Pecan Council

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.