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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Sweet ‘Taters And Memories

By Sherrie Norris

Around this same time every year, I think of my late Aunt Sylvia Biggerstaff and her family in the red-dirt piedmont area of Rutherford County, where sweet potatoes have always grown in abundance, along with gigantic pumpkins, gourds and other fall specialties.

I recall, as a young girl, spending as much time there as possible — and all I have to do now is close my eyes for just a moment, and I’m there once again — swinging in the huge tree in the yard of the regal colonial home perched on the hill, surrounded by lush fields overlooking the family dairy; the back porch filled with fruits of the family’s labor as harvest time arrived, the old cook stove heating up the most mouthwatering delicacies, and especially the best creamed corn on the planet, the quilting frames in the front room weighted down by a colorful project near completion, and on and on.

As we get older, those “good old days” seem to mean more than they once did, and while those times may be gone, the memories remain as a priceless treasure. You don’t necessarily have to go to Rutherford County for a sweet tater (I just wanted to share why they were special to me!), and you can enjoy these delectable dishes, just the same.


Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes

½ tsp. salt

1/3 stick margarine

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients and pour into greased baking dish.

For topping, mix the following and sprinkle over the above:

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1 cup chopped nuts

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.


Sweet Potato Pudding

3 cups milk

½ cup sugar

3 eggs

2 cups grated sweet potatoes

¼ cup margarine, melted

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ginger

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup chopped nuts

½ tsp. cloves

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine milk, sugar and eggs to make custard. Add grated potatoes. Add melted margarine and spices. Top with nuts. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.


Fresh Sweet Potato Salad

4 cups shredded raw sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)

1 medium apple, unpeeled and chopped

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp. grated lemon rind

2 Tbs. lemon juice

2 Tbs. honey

¼ tsp. dried whole tarragon

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

Combine sweet potatoes, apple and pecans in large bowl; stir well. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over sweet potato mixture; stir well. Cover and chill. Serves 8.


Sweet Potato Biscuits

3 cups flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. sugar

¼ cup chilled butter/margarine

¼ cup chilled cream cheese

1 cup cold mashed sweet potatoes

½ cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar in large mixing bowl. Cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture until it has the texture of coarse corn meal. Stir in the mashed potatoes. Add the whipping cream and quickly form a soft dough. Be careful not to work the dough too much or the biscuits will be tough.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about ½-inch thick. Cut dough into biscuit rounds, using a 2-inch biscuit cutter. Arrange the biscuits on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in center of oven for 10-15 minutes or until browned.


Simple Sweet Potato Pie

1 box instant vanilla pudding

2 cups cold milk

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 graham cracker crust

Mix pudding and milk in large bowl. Set in refrigerator 2 hours. Bake sweet potatoes at 450-degrees for 1½ hours. Mash sweet potatoes and mix well with pudding. Pour in graham cracker crust. Chill.