Sweet Potato Pie has become one of our Thanksgiving and Holiday staple deserts, offering the perfect balance of savory and sweet. Here’s a guide to the history of this iconic desert, as prepared by the experts at Texas Chicken & Burger in order to celebrate this coming Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season.
Origins of Sweet Potato PieThe earliest records of sweet potato cultivation dates back to 750 BCE in Peru, but there’s a bit of archeological evidence that suggests that they first started being cultivated around 2500-1850 BCE. By the 1400s, sweet potatoes were set in as staple food plants throughout Central and South America. Spanish colonists brought yams back to Europe, where they were called potatoes (the term sweet potato became used later on, during the 1740s by American colonists.)A common recipe for sweet potatoes in the 16th century involved roasting it, and infusing it with wine, prunes, oil, vinegar, and salt. It was considered an aphrodisiac by the English courts of the 1500s - with King Henry VIII being known to eat huge amounts of spiced sweet potato pie, with a long running belief in its ability to induce courage.
Candied Sweet Potato Recipe OriginsDuring the era of Slavery in the United States, many black slaves cultivated, planted, harvested, and cooked sweet potatoes, due to their popularity among groups of wealthy, white, slave-owning Southerners. Due to this, the refinement of sweet potato recipes was spearheaded by the United State’s Southern black population during the 17-1800s. Sweet potato pies became a staple desert since they could be stored to last year round, and even a single potato was enough to create an entire pie.
Candied sweet potatoes became readily cooked and consumed by the late 19th century. A well known cookbook published in 1893, Fannie Farmer’s ‘Boston Cooking School Cookbook’ involved detailed recipes for glazed sweet potatoes. Around this time, George Washington Carver, the inventor of peanut butter, compiled tons of recipes for candied sweet potatoes.
Marshmallows and Contemporary UseEarly versions of candied sweet potato recipes skew close to our common use of marshmallows with sweet potato pie, with Eliza Leslie’s 1840 ‘Directions for Cookery’ cookbook detailing a recipe that called for mashed sweet potatoes being combined with milk, egg whites ,and then baked. The Barrett Company’s 1919 pamphlet, “on Sweet Potato and Yams’ suggests adding marshmallows to candied yams, cementing the tradition of combining these two Earth-grown desert foods, cultivated and originating in the Americas to the point of making it an iconic Holiday food.