The best candied yams????? Calling all chowhounds...share your secrets
I have had a lot of different versions of southern candied yams, but some just seem to have a multilayering of flavor that is outstanding beyond just brown sugar and butter. I have always wondered what takes them to the next level? Is it mace, nutmeg, and cinnamon in combination with brown sugar and maple syrup?
What are the best you've had and what made them so special?
While all those spices work well, my favorite is ginger. Dried, fresh, and candied all work. Certain jams also work, for example passion fruit jam (Goya brand). These add a bit of bite and tartness to another wise sweet dish.
Try curry powder. It makes a great combo in a sweet/savory dish like that. You don't necessarily have to cover the yams, but mix it in something like melted butter and baste.
From my brother; I normally don't like intensely sweet things, but this is so incredible -- you only eat a few spoonfuls -- that I throw it into the pile here:
Paul’s Candied Yams
• Dark-fleshed sweet potatoes (“yams”; light-fleshed sweet potatoes fall apart; 4 large yams will amply serve 8 people, because you only eat a few spoonfuls; this is a half recipe)
• 1-2 cups cup real maple syrup (to taste; the darker, the more maple flavor -- Grade B is the grail here)
• about 1 /2 cup orange or tangerine juice
• 1/2 -3/4 pounds sweet butter (or half sweet, half regular, which is what I think works best)
• 1 box brown sugar
• ground cinnamon (to taste) or 2 cinnamon sticks
• freshly ground nutmeg (to taste)
• vanilla extract (to taste)
• peels of an orange and/or a lemon
Par-heat the potatoes in the microwave – for 8 potatoes, this might take 10 minutes or so. Your aim: they should be hot on the outside – but no hot enough to soften; watch them carefully.
Let them cool for 20 minutes or until they are comfortable to handle, and peel with a peeler. Some pointy ends might be cooked through and will come off when you peel; I discard these if I can’t get the skin off.
After the potatoes have been peeled, cut them into 1.5 - 2” chunks – I find cutting a large yam into quarters and then cutting each quarter in half or quarters is best. Basically, each piece should be a good deal larger than a biteful, because they will ultimately fall apart throughout the very long cooking process, turning into smaller morsels of goodness.
Note: all following cooking is uncovered. There is a lot of moisture that needs to evaporate away. A LOT.
Place in a stockpot on the stove along with other ingredients. Simmer – or even boil, I daresay - until thickened and bubbly; the key thing is to watch and wait for the mixture to rise in volume about 1/3 and boil back down. Once it has boiled back down, then prepare your crock pot.
Now: if you don’t have a lot of time before dinner, keep the potatoes on the stove for another 30 minutes or so at a simmer. Then, place, uncovered, in crock pot, on “high,” for remaining hour or two before serving.
If you do have time before dinner, put the potatoes directly in the crock pot after they have boiled back down on the stove. Then, place, uncovered, in crock pot, on “high,” for remaining 5-6 hours before serving.
Gauge: Say you want to eat at 3 or 4 PM. Start at 8 AM; the prep process takes probably about 1 hour, allowing time for cleaning, microwaving, cooling, peeling, and ingredient prep, bringing you to 9 AM. Then, getting the mixture up to a boil can take a good 20-30 minutes; the expanding and contracting process described above can take another 15-20 minutes (10 AM). (Essentially, you can expect that it will take 2 hours before they go into the crock pot.) Once the mixture is in there, you want it there for a good 5-6 hours (serve at 3-4 PM).
Tips: you can continue to tweak seasoning throughout the first half of the crock pot hours. I prefer a high nutmeg to cinnamon ratio. You may want to add more vanilla than you think (I always wind up adding a bit more), but do it to taste during the cooking process rather than ahead of time.