Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie

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Sweet potatoes possess a “superfood” reputation for the mega nutrients they contain and are widely considered one of the most healthy and versatile vegetables available for the human diet. (Sweet potatoes are also honored by a wonderful Winston-Salem, N.C. restaurant that takes their name.) I remember my Grandpa Lee Quinn always relished the opportunity to bake and eat a sweet potato with supper, correctly believing it to be a smart food choice. I have the same perspective, enjoying the sweetness of such a potato, as long as it’s not drowned in butter and brown sugar. Let’s reserve those ingredients for an occasional sweet potato pie!

I love both sweet potato and pumpkin pies, despite my opinion that they’re very similar in taste and appearance and my understanding that most of America prefers one over the other for the family Thanksgiving table. Am I the only one who thinks it’s easier to get away with making a sweet potato pie year round because pumpkin is so closely associated with fall, both for Halloween and Thanksgiving?

In our kitchen, if it’s a pie, any pie, then it’s acceptable any time!

This is our tried-and-true recipe for homemade Sweet Potato Pie. It’s called “Mama’s” because the ingredients are directly from my wife, Molly’s mother. And also because we added a twist borrowed by the famed Mama Dip’s restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (By the way, Chapel Hill is one of the South’s great foodie towns, if you’ve never been.) “Mama Dip” boils her sweet potatoes, instead of baking them, prior to mashing. We couldn’t tell a difference in taste when we boiled our potatoes, but we did find it to be an easier process overall.

Regardless of how you cook it up, sweet potato pie is truly worthy of the old Alabama song that sings, “Song, song of the South. Sweet Potato Pie and I shut my mouth.

Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

1 pie crust

1 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

Directions

1. Stir all filling ingredients in large bowl.

2. Poke holes in pie crust with fork.

3. Pour filling into crust.

4. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. (#FoodieScore Pro Tip: Sometimes we make mini pies, and the baking time for this recipe is about 15 minutes for such pies in our oven.)

5. You can sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg atop each sweet potato pie either before or after baking.

The Slug Burger: A Mississippi Tradition

pickled meat

Two cheeseburger cookbooks sit on the counter in our kitchen, each with a slew of burger recipes. Recently, we found a section on burgers from different states. We zeroed in on Mississippi, fascinated by the name “slugburger.” One reason we were so interested is that slugburgers have ties to the Depression-era practice of stretching out meat by adding in other ingredients. That reminded Molly of her grandmother, Loma “Banny” Watts, who used to make what she called “breadie burgers,” a combination of burger, egg and bread. Born in 1910, Banny grew up in that time period in Alabama.

So we decided to try out the slugburger from nearby Mississippi. Here’s our recipe! Hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

1 pound ground meat (we used ground turkey)

1/2 cup cornmeal (you can also use soy meal, grits or another filler)

Flour to coat burgers

Salt

Vegetable oil

Desired burger toppings

Sandwich buns

Step one:

Thoroughly mix meat with cornmeal or other filler substance and a pinch of salt.

MEAT

Step two:

Patty out burgers and coat with flour for frying.

dusty meat

Step three:

Place burgers in the pan and fry until meat is brown and crispy on the outside. Because of the consistency, the meat will still be softer on the inside when done.

oily meat

Step four:

Drain grease from burgers, place on buns and top with onions, pickles and mustard.

The original slugburgers included those toppings, but you can modify the recipe to fit your taste.

ONIONS

Recipe yields about 8 slugburgers.

Matthew’s Take: The slugburger’s connection to our family and the Depression era made it an attractive recipe from the start for me. My grandpa Lee worked in a local diner owned by Windy Powell as a young man, and I imagine they employed some of the same tactics to get the most food out of the cheapest amount of ingredients. When we found this recipe, I searched the Internet for specific takes on it and found what appeared to be the most authentic version in Corinth, Miss. After making the slugburger, I was amazed at how similar it is to a livermush sandwich, a delicacy in the county where we live. Livermush is a meat-cornmeal mixture that crisps as it fries. The resemblance of the two concoctions is striking. I give the slugburger an A for taste and an A for price. But I give it a C for presentation because, let’s face it, fried meat isn’t pretty, even when topped with onions and colorful green pickles.

Molly’s Take: The slugburger reminded me of a livermush sandwich, too, most notably because of its consistency. It’s a very different kind of burger, because it’s flatter and crispier than a typical burger. But I loved that combination on a soft bun with mustard, pickle and onion. Those ingredients seemed to just fit. I’d definitely love for us to make it again, although Banny’s original recipe for breadie burgers (which we hope to post soon!) is still my favorite alternative burger. Making something like this in the same way people did almost a hundred years ago was awesome, because we weren’t just making a burger; we were making a connection to history and those people who had to work so hard to live. We’re blessed today that getting a burger is as easy as going to McDonald’s. I can’t imagine it being so difficult to find meat that you had to stretch it out with other things you had at home. So I loved trying out this burger, because traditions like this, and the history behind them, ought to be remembered. And in the South, food is definitely one of our biggest traditions.

Check out this video for more on the slugburger and its history.

Trail of the Slugburger from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.