Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Praise of the Sweet Potato Pie!

^those sweet potatoes she's holding will become a glorious pie!

She (or he) who bakes the pie, wears the crown!

It's almost that time of year, when we open our doors to relatives and friends and welcome them in from the cold  for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.  In the south, we have our traditions, and one holiday dessert we treasure is the sweet potato pie.

Some may say why not bake pumpkin pie?  Well I'll tell you why I prefer my southern sweet potato pie recipe over any pumpkin pie, but it's not to say that pumpkin pie isn't delicious, it's just that this is how we do it down south, and it's all about the sweet potato.  In my opinion, if you were to eat one spoonful of pumpkin pie and then sample one spoonful of sweet potato pie, you would notice the sweet potato pie has the consistency of velvet,  is smoother and richer than the pumpkin pie, and embodies the taste of the holiday season.

Just about every friend I have, who grew up in the south will swear that their grandmother made the most delicious sweet potato pie in the world, but the funny thing is, almost each recipe is identical to one another, although there can be debate as to which recipe has the right pinch of this or pinch of that added.  Sometimes the prize goes to the pie with the best crust, since the filling as I said before, is almost identical.  A warm, golden-brown flaky crust is desired, but there is no top crust over the pie, as in an apple or cherry pie. I have heard on occasion, "Yes, her pie is good, but did you try (insert name here)'s pie?  Her pie filling was divine, but her crust was so flaky and buttery, and it just melted in my mouth."  So if you want to go down in familial history as to having the best sweet potato pie ever, keep the crust in mind!  If you are busy, as I am, then do not fear, there are amazing pie crusts out there which taste almost as good as if you made it yourself.  Just remember to douse yourself with flower, and sprinkle your forehead with water (to imitate sweat and toil) and people will think you were in the kitchen for hours making that flaky, crust.  We'll be the only ones to know, and do hide the container in the trash, as soon as possible,  to cover your tracks!

There is however, one more point of contention, and that is whether or not to add real whipped cream on top.  Some say to serve the pie just as it is, in  all its' simple glory, but others choose to instead crown their sweet potato pie with whipped cream.  I'm talking old-fashioned whipped cream, not from a can, but cream you whip into shape yourself!  Again, the addition of whipped cream is optional, and it has become a source of great debate in some households at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  To make everyone happy, I think it is best to bring your fresh whipped cream and set it out in a bowl, and let each guest decide for themselves if they wish to add it or not, this way they will sing the praises of your creamy, delicious pie and crust, and have their pie just the way they want it.

Oh how we love thee, o sweet potato pie.  You are a rockstar in the dessert world, and a country star too! In fact, you're so famous,  you've become immortalized forever, in these tasty lyrics from a tune by Alabama.

"Song, song of the south.
Sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth."

History says that George Washington Carver, the man who created peanut butter and over 105 other foods using peanuts, is also attributed to touting the benefits of growing sweet potatoes, as another cash crop in the south, and is said to have made one of the first sweet potato pies. If you've never read about him before, do check out this link below.  In truth, we actually don't know who was the genius who created the first sweet potato pie, but since this gentleman inventor, the Steve Jobs of the south and the agricultural industry,  made the sweet potato famous in the south, I'd like to think he created it.  Without this man, there would be no Reese's peanut butter cups, no chocolatey, peanut-buttery goodness would we have ever experienced.  So if he could create something so sweet and good as peanut butter, and came up with a bazillion ways to use the sweet potato, then I'll believe the innuendo and give him the props and proclaim him inventor of this too.

As a writer, I have to mention to you, a fun series of books written by Jill Connor Browne, which introduce to the world the Sweet Potato Queens, a bawdy, beautiful bunch of belles from Jackson, Mississippi and it heralds their escapades and thoughts on life, love, and everything in between.  Check out any one of these books for a fun read!  I am also going to post below my fabulous sweet potato pie recipe, which is one handed down over the years, and it will taste so good, your family will crown YOU  sweet potato queen (or king) 2011!
Are you ready now to make your own sweet potato pie?  If you are, then feel free to borrow my family's recipe.  And let me tell you, mine is the best!  You can rest assured, I will enter my kitchen on Wednesday afternoon, and by five p.m., there will be two very ravenous men stalking both my upper and lower ovens, waiting for me to open them stick a knife into the pies.  These two particular men know if the knife comes out of the pie clean, then that's the signal the pie is ready to come out.  I tell them to wait, that it needs to properly cool before it's eaten, but they usually can't, and they slice large pieces, and gobble it down, with a wide smile and a glass of milk.

Joey's Sweet Potato Pie

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (nice large ones)
  • butter
  • sugar or granular splenda (if you want it sugar free)
  • eggs
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  •  vanilla
  • can evaporated milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 packages Mrs. Smiths' or Marie Callender's frozen pie crusts (almost as good as homemade)
-peel sweet potatoes and then slice them 
-preheat oven to 400 degrees
-in pot, add sweet potatoes and add water to barely cover the top of the sliced sweet potatoes. Add pinch of salt when cooking the potatoes.  Cook until boiling, and then reduce heat.  Continue cooking sweet potatoes
until very soft.
-pour water out of pot, 
-mash sweet potatoes with 1/2 stick of butter
-add 2 eggs
-add 1/2 teaspoon of both cinnamon and nutmeg
-add t teaspoon of vanilla
-add 1 cup evaporated milk
-using hand mixer, mix the potatoes and ingredients until thin consistency.
-pour mixture into pie shells
-melt 1/2 stick butter in microwave and drizzle it over top of pie
-bake in oven for 400 degrees for 15 minutes then lower temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes until done.  
-you will know when the pie is done when you can stick a knife in the middle of it and it comes out of pie clean without mixture sticking to it.  
-add real whipped cream (or not)  and enjoy!

Maybe in honor of my pie being the best around, I'll go ahead and crown myself "Sweet Potato Pie Queen 2011 of the Household".  Yes, I actually have one of these crowns (won a few back about 20 yrs ago and 20 pounds ago), and I'm not afraid to wear it when baking my pie, as I feel it's a subtle reminder who rules the kitchen.  You feel your pie is the best?  Then don't be afraid to bake the pie and wear your crown.

Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll.


Angie Sandro said...

Yay, I love sweat potato pie. Much better than pumpkin in my opinion. Thanks for the recipe. I think I'll brave the kitchen and give it a try.

Joey Francisco said...

I hope you love it Angie! I'm getting ready to go to work here too. Have a happy Thanksgiving!