National Pralines Day on June 24 celebrates a nut-based creamy confection that can be enjoyed in an assortment of ways. Pralines are a smooth and sweet treat made with nuts, sugar, and sometimes cream. They can be used in cookies, candy, and as a paste and they’re often made with pecans or almonds. The name is believed to have been inspired by French sugar industrialist and French diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin who used a powder called pralin made by grinding sugar-coated nuts.
History of National Pralines Day
During the seventeenth century, France’s Marshal du Plessis-Praslin was responsible for the fame and name of the praline but many believe that it was his chef, Clement Lassagne who was the true creator.
In one account, the idea for pralines came from Lassagne’s children who snacked on the leftover almonds and caramel from earlier culinary projects which inspired the idea. In another, the children had caramelized almonds over a candle and Lassagne followed the scent and discovered the magic of the mixture. And in yet another, Lassagne’s apprentice accidentally knocked a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel.
Pralines were brought from France to New Orleans by Ursuline nuns in 1727. They oversaw young women called casket girls who under the request of Bienville were meant to marry New Orleans’ colonists. The casket girls were taught the art of praline making along with academics and domestic work for the purpose of becoming good wives to the settlers. Pralines became part of the local tradition in New Orleans and now they’re an essential part of creole cuisine.
In the nineteenth century, the ingredients switched from almonds to pecans because of their availability in New Orleans and cream was used to thicken the texture. Women in the French Quarter who sold pralines were called Pralinieres and selling pralines gave free people of color job opportunities when work was limited. Instead of being indentured servants or kept-women, women of lesser means were given more autonomy thanks to this alternate avenue of income. The praline expanded into other parts of the country and they became popular in Texas and Georgia as a favored southern confection but it all began in The Big Easy.
Pralines haven’t changed much from their original form. The ingredients still consist of pecans, dairy, and sugar and some have added vanilla and maple for more flavor. People have experimented with pralines in many different ways but the original is still just as loved as it was back then. The creamy sweetness of this confection still holds its own amongst many other tasty treats.
National Pralines Day timeline
- 1600s: Marshal du Plessis-Praslin’s chef Clement Lassagne invented the praline by mixing cooked caramel and almonds
- 1727: Pralines are brought over from France by Ursuline nuns who used young women to create them as they were molded for marriage
- 1800s: Free women of color were permitted to sell pralines as Pralinieres offering them more economic security and better opportunity
- 2000s: Pralines have remained very similar to their origins and are considered an essential part of southern culinary tradition
How to celebrate National Pralines Day
Make pralines: The best way to celebrate National Pralines Day is to make them yourself! Making pralines is not as hard as it seems. Get some butter, sugar, corn syrup, and pecans, and you are all set. Follow a recipe online or in a cookbook to get the perfect mixture of ingredients.
Visit a praline shop: Search for a local praline shop and sample all the treats they have to offer. From traditional flavors like pecan and chocolate to more unique combinations like peanut butter and bacon, you are sure to find something that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Make a praline trail mix: Mix together some chopped nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips with some crushed pralines for a delicious snack that you can take on the go.
Go to a walking tour: A trip might be in order to truly appreciate the pralines American origins. Learn about the history of pralines on a walking tour in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the birthplace of pralines in the United States. The best part of it is that afterward, you can treat yourself to more pralines!
5 fun facts about National Pralines Day
1. After the praline: Chef Lassagne opened a sweet shop in France called the Maison du Praslin that’s still around today.
2. Three pralines: The three main types of pralines are Belgian Pralines, French Pralines, and American Pralines.
3. The Belgian praline: Belgian pralines have a hard chocolate shell with a softer or liquid filling.
4. Belgian names: Belgian pralines are also called Belgian chocolates, Belgeian Choclate fondants, and chocolate bonbons.
5. Sweet like candy: In New Orleans, pralines are sometimes called pecan candy.
It was always easier for me to show love than to say it. The word reminded me of pralines: small, precious, almost unbearable sweet.