In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat, combine all of the ingredients except the pecan pieces. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to bubble around the edges of the pan, about 12 minutes. Add the pecans and continue to stir until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes, and reaches 234 to 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or the soft ball stage, that is, when a bit dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens. Remove from the heat and drop by the tablespoonful onto waxed paper. Let cool and lift the pralines with a thin knife.