Friday, December 6, 2013

Sweet Potato Pie: The Holy Grail of Our Family's Holiday Celebrations

This is the holy grail of the holidays. In my family, a carafe of well- blended and flavorfully composed sweet potatoes is held in esteem most high. The glue that seals and sanctifies the close of the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, only our mother is trusted with the sacred task of preparing the pies that we only enjoy at high holidays. 

But I am the matriarch now. In Maui, the tradition must be passed on through my humble hands. I have never been shown a recipe, just given sporadic instruction in broad strokes. Nevertheless, I have been warned to "represent" and to "get it right" for Jada. 

Here's what I've come up with. I expect this recipe to evolve. This is a quest to capture the ever-elusive essence of our family's tradition. Until I have another opportunity to hover behind my mother while she makes sweet potato pie, I'll bear the cross of trial and error.  Feel free to chime in here if you can lend a helping hand. 

You are on your own with the pie crust. That deserves another entry of its own. Do as you wish. I opted for a store brought graham cracker crust. Getting the filling right already had me rattled. 

So, once your crust it set and ready to go, preparation of the filling is as follows: 

Set your oven to 400 degrees if you are not blessed as a baker and have opted for the purchased pie crust. 4 medium sweet potatoes, about two pounds, should do the trick for one pie. Prick these all over and put them in the oven to bake for an hour. 

Once ready, take them out of the oven and cut them lengthwise to cool, but leave the oven on for the baking of the pies. 

My mother uses dry sugar for her filling. I opted to make a simple syrup to create a more uniform consistency and deeper flavor. So, I took a 1/2 cup of sugar and poured it in to a skillet over medium heat. When it began to melt, I added 1/3 cup of water and stirred until the mixture was well blended and took on the color of caramel. Get it off the heat once it reaches this state. 

The potatoes should be closer to cool at this point. Scoop out the pulp and puree in a food processor or blender or mixer until it is smooth. Add the simple syrup, 3 large eggs, 3 tsp cinnamon, a dash of salt, 2/3 cup of milk, 2 tbsps of dark rum and 1 tsp of vanilla. Blend again, until everything is well integrated. 

Pour your filling in to your crust. Bake it for about 45 minutes. Cool it for an hour. Enjoy!

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