Sweet potato pie is the planter’s reward

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

My father was not a fan of sweet potatoes. He claimed that one winter when he lived on the farm that’s all they had to eat. My aunt, his sister, said that was pure fabrication. The veracity of the story notwithstanding, I am beginning to understand how my father felt.

This summer, after harvesting my garlic crop, I had a large cleared space. On a whim, I decided to plant sweet potatoes. I put in about 40 slips, and waited. For about a month, they languished, not dying, but not starting to vine. Then the rains came, and they took off. Thirty-foot vines started to cover the planting area, and soon every other space — including the lawn. I read that trimming the vines was acceptable, so I hacked away, trying to keep them in check.

At the end of September, I noticed some sweet potatoes just under the surface of the ground. Internet sources said to harvest when the vines began to turn yellow. I didn’t see that happening anytime soon, so I called Miller’s Plant Farm, where I had bought the slips.

I talked to Dave Miller, who told me they had just finished harvesting their crop. I followed his advice and dug up mine. He also told me that the sweet potatoes would have to be cured for a week or so before they would be ready to eat. The process was necessary to turn the starch into sugar.

Curing involves keeping the sweet potatoes in a warm, humid place. Babying 75 pounds of sweet potatoes presented a bit of a challenge. I finally ended up putting them in an unused bathtub. With the door closed and a sink full of hot water, they had their perfect curing environment.

A perfectly baked sweet potato slathered in butter would probably have left my father searching his plate for something better to eat. Sweet potato pie would have been another matter, as he never met a dessert he didn’t like.

For this sweet potato pie, I kept the autumn spices to a minimum to make sure it was not a clone of its orange cousin. Feel free to increase the spices if you prefer.

Sweet potato pie can help cure the problem of a bountiful harvest of sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • Crust for a 9-inch pie, either homemade or store bought
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 cups boiled and mashed sweet potatoes
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the melted butter, salt, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, spices and eggs until smooth. Set the filling aside.

Roll out the crust into the pie pan and crimp the edges. Pour the filling over the crust and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is set, about 1 hour. Let cool completely before serving.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.