Today’s food holiday is a little bit sweet and a little bit nutty. June 24 is National Pralines Day!
A praline is essentially a pecan that has been boiled in sugar until it turns crisp and brown. In some parts of the world, almonds are used. Pralines are popular additions to cookies, candy, ice cream, and chicken noodle soup.
Pralines are French in origin, and were named after the 17th century diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin. Talk about a mouthful. Dude-with-a-long-name’s personal chef, Clement Lassagne, actually created pralines after watching children scavenging leftover scraps of almonds and caramel from one of his pastries. Other versions of this story exist. In one, he followed the children, who had stolen almonds and heated them over a candle, caramelizing them. Or, one of his klutzy apprentices knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of caramel. Whatever the true story, pralines caught the fancy of many, and even though dude-with-a-long-name gets all the credit, Lassagne didn’t do too badly for himself. He opened a candy shop in France called Maison du Praslin which is still around to this day.
Pralines made their way with French settlers to New Orleans. Because almonds were in short supply, cooks began substituting nuts from Louisiana’s abundant pecan trees instead. Women who sold pralines on the streets of the French Quarter were known as Pralinières and were given the unique opportunity to sell their wares in order to earn a living. Women who sold “other things” on the streets of the French Quarter earned a living in other ways, but we won’t discuss that since this is a family blog. Since New Orleans was a busy port city, pralines spread around the country, and became a popular confection nationwide.
To celebrate the mighty praline, we stopped by Baskin Robbins for pralines and cream flavored ice cream. I had never had it before, and I’m not exaggerating at all when I say it was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had!