Gentle Reader, I can be a real jerk.
No, really (here’s where we both pretend you don’t believe I possess Queen of the Buttheads tendencies). It’s true—I promise.
The subjects about which I can be irritating, bordering on insufferable are legion. Whole body cringe is not a strong enough phrase to use when I think about the multiple occasions when I sounded completely filled to the overflowing with donkey dung. But today we’ll only focus on one particular instance.
It was a Southern cooking bias. And, I apologize, so very, very much.
I thought it was cheap, greasy, unimaginative food, made by bad cooks who only used salt, pepper, and sugar for flavor. There was too much organ meat and not enough ability.
Fortunately, I learned about food and ate at the table of a passle really wonderful Southern cooks and chefs. People who cooked with skill and joy.
This kind of cooking doesn’t rely on trendy, expensive ingredients. It’s working people food. It’s the food you cook when you have more time than money. It’s honest, fresh components, cared for and coaxed into poetry.
It was farm to table before farm to table was cool.
A couple months ago I attended a community potluck at the church of my friends Maxie and Mark. Mark asked me to come and judge the dessert contest they were having. And thank goodness I said yes.
Because, as a judge, I had to taste every single confection. And one of the offerings was a sweet potato pie. Normally, I wouldn’t have had a slice. I don’t hate it, but I
don’t didn’t have any love for it.
Lucky for me, that night it was my responsibility to try at least a couple bites of every sweet on that dessert table.
Otherwise I never would have tasted the world’s greatest sweet potato pie. The sweet potato in this pie is caramelized which completely changes the taste and texture. It’s so good, I snuck out of that church basement with a hunk that I nibbled on for three days.
It was totally worth the risk of somebody dropping a dime on me and getting arrested and convicted for pie purloining.
It took a couple of weeks, but my friends got the recipe. Here it is, exactly.
Mama Bertha’s Sweet Potato Pies Recipe
My mom, Bertha Hamilton, received this recipe in the 1970’s from a coworker named Cybil Levan. And while my mom has been making these pies and receiving rave reviews for decades, she wanted me to make sure and give proper credit where credit is due…thank you, Miss Cybil.
1 40-ounce can of sweet potatoes
2 deep dish pie crusts (works well with graham cracker crusts also—gives it a totally different taste)
1 stick butter
1 ½ cups of sugar
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Open and drain potatoes
In a pan, sauté sugar, butter, and potatoes on medium until sugar and butter both completely melt.
Pour them into a blender.
Add condensed milk (to cool mixture before adding eggs).
Beat eggs and pour them into blender along with vanilla and lemon.
Blend until it’s smooth.
Evenly pour into pie crusts.
Bake 35-45 minutes just until crust browns.
I’ve had the recipe for three months, but this pie seems to be more appropriate for the fall. I’ve waited for cooler weather to share it, but the weather hasn’t wanted to cooperate. I hope by writing about it now, I can drag the autumn, kicking and screaming, into NC.
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.