The Misunderstood Thanksgiving Favorite

Were sweet potatoes served at the first Thanksgiving? Probably not. They were common in the Southeast but not the Northeast. The lonely sweet potatoes are mistakenly called yams. They are not yams nor potatoes. This starchy edible is really a member of the Morning Glory family and grew only in the New World.  It was not until the Europeans came across the white potato that they gave it the name sweet potato as it had more sugar and thus it was sweet.  Calling this new vegetable a yam came from the African Slaves.  The sweet potato heavily reminded them of the yam they knew of in Africa.  The misnomer stuck and even today the USDA still uses the word yams when referring to sweet potatoes.

Satsuma Candied Yams

Satsumas are at peak harvest right around Thanksgiving. Incorporating them into candied yams is a fresh take on an old standard.



5 lbs small fresh yams or sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
½ stick butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger spice
2 – 3 fresh satsumas depending on the size


Steam yams in an electric or stove-top steamer until a knife goes through them with a little resistance. When cool enough to handle, remove peelings and slice in 2” pieces. Place yams in glass or ceramic casserole dish about 10” x 16”. Peel and segment the satsumas removing as much of the white pith as possible with a small paring knife. Randomly place between the yams.


In a saucepan, combine sugars, corn syrup, water and spices. Bring to a rolling boil until it reaches the soft-ball stage. Test by dropping a small amount in cold water. When it forms a soft ball, remove from heat. Stir and melt butter. Pour mixture over yams. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. You can assemble the day before and refrigerate until baking. If cold, bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees.



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