Fifteen years ago, I called Grandma Betty the day before our first Thanksgiving in Florida to learn how to make her incredible old fashioned sweet potatoes. We called them candied yams in the Tribby family. But apparently the tubers we all know and love as yams in this iconic dish are actually sweet potatoes. And they’re not even a potato!
A Little History – Sweet Potato vs. Yam
The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots are a root vegetable. The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens. The sweet potato is commonly thought to be a type of potato (Solanum tuberosum) but does not belong to the nightshade family, Solanaceae, but both families belong to the same taxonomic order, the Solanales. The sweet potato, especially the orange variety, is often called a “yam” in parts of North America, but is botanically very distinct from true yams.
This sweet potato dish is made with canned sweet potatoes. But the label says Yams. Any brand will do so long as they’re in syrup, but not candied.
Old Fashioned Sweet Potatoes
Old Fashioned Sweet Potatoes (aka Candied Yams)
- 1 29 oz can Yams in syrup
- 1/4-1/3 cup brown sugar, depending on desired sweetness
- 1-2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup mini marshmallows, optional
- Preheat oven to 350F. Spray baking dish with oil.
- Drain liquid from canned sweet potatoes into a small sauce pan. Add brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, dissolve cornstarch in water. Use 1 or 2 tablespoons depending on desired consistency after baking. More cornstarch makes a thicker gel.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry into the simmering liquid and continue to stir until thickened somewhat.
- Pour over then sweet potatoes spread out but still touching in the baking dish.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until hot and bubbly and gel is thickened or set. Top with optional marshmallows and continue baking until nicely browned on top, about 5 minutes or so. Watch carefully or the marshmallows will burn. If they do, scrape them off the top and put on another layer and try again.
My most popular recipe around Christmas is always The Original Buckeyes Recipe (aka Peanut Butter Balls). This one came from my Grandma Louise Johns. Oh my word, was she a good cook! She made the best bread dressing EVER! I’m so sorry I didn’t get her recipe before she passed, but I think I can duplicate it. Though it’ll have to be all mine because Jimmie loves his dressing dry and I love mine jiggly – just like Grandma Louise’s!