Sweet Potato Pie
By Fernando Jones
As a child, I was exposed to Soul food at the highest level by a Mississippi mama on the Southside of Chicago. What does that mean? That means my mother could cook anything and did¾every day from scratch. There were never any designer diets or cook books in our house. I’d watch in amazement as mama cooked perfect meals without cookbooks, notes, measuring instruments or fancy food appliances.
Mama, or Big Mama as she was affectionately called by her grandchildren, made one of my favorite dishes twice a year . . . Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was sweet potato pie. The thrill of watching her do her thing overtook me. I thought she didn’t know I was paying attention, but now I know differently. She was secretly “setting me up” to carry her tradition on.
I’d help her peel the potatoes after they’d boiled and cooled down. As I write I can see my mother at the kitchen table separating the egg whites from the yolks; beating the egg whites and mashing the sweet potatoes.
Somewhere around 1996 during Christmas time, it seemed as if I had 20 people to buy gifts for. The problem was that I had more ambition and goodwill than dollars. Therefore, I did the next best thing. I gave the gift of love. Pies. That was the first time that I cooked more than 3 pies at one time in my life. Being an artist I knew that presentation was everything so I packaged the pies in plastic cake boxes to make them look expensive. The next thing you know, I was hooked up with Real Men Cook and that’s been my contribution ever since to that foundation.
Boil 10lbs of whole sweet potatoes, or you can use canned sweet potatoes (yams) if you like.
When pealing the potatoes, in order to avoid the strings in the pie you have to cut away the outer ring of the potato. It’s the darker brownish-orange circle, about 1/8” to 1/4” thick, encasing the more “orangey” potato itself.
In a separate bowl . . .
Add 2 cups of sugar to the newly pealed sweet potatoes. Sugar makes juice. Stir vigorously. While hot, pour into big mixing bowl. Add melted 1 stick of butter. Now you can use a blender or food processor to blend everything together. Then poor the contents back into the bowl. Feel free to taste the mix. Add 4 more cups of sugar and mix.
Add egg yolks and stir. Beat the egg whites until the fluff up in a bowl. Add two pinches of sugar to the mix. Pour and fold in egg whites and mix. You can use a hand blender if you’d like.
Now that it’s all done . . .
Pour two cups of the sweet potato pie mix into the into a 9 oz. graham cracker crust or regular pie crusts. Now swirl the mix in a circular motion until it levels out and rises a little bit.
Bake for 90 minutes at 350 degrees in a preheated oven.
When out if the oven and cooled for about 15 minutes garnish the pie with chopped pecans and/or shredded coconut.
Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour and serve chilled.
Over the years I have garnished my pies w/pecans and/or shredded coconuts.
ten pounds sweet potato, fresh or canned; six – eight cups of sugar; four eggs, separated; Ten 8 inch graham cracker pie crusts; four cups of chopped pecans; two cups of shredded coconut.