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The best candied yams????? Calling all chowhounds...share your secrets

  • m

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?

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  1. 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.

    paulj

    1. 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.

      1. Jack Daniels and maple syrup.

        1. Coca Cola and a touch of vanilla extract to your favorite ingredients...

          1. 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.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              2 cups of maple syrup, 3/4 of a pound of butter AND a box of brown sugar for just 4 yams? Surely you jest?!

              1. re: Jpan99

                Not, I do not, but I understand your reaction. Remember 4 large yams is much more than 4 medium potatoes. Still, yes, it reads like extraordinary excess. I was very turned off by reading it. But making it and serving it converted me. Again, you don't eat a lot of this.

            2. While we're on the subject, let's make it a point to say that we're not truly making "yams." Let's not mix names here. Yams are virtually non-existent in the US. We're talking about sweet potatoes. Argue if you want... ;-)

              4 Replies
              1. re: HaagenDazs

                You're correct. I love when I go to the grocery store and they have two bins, the one on the left says sweet potatoes, the one on the right, yams. And shoppers argue about one being better than the other, when in fact they are the exact same thing. I guess the produce managers know how to kill two birds with one stone! Everybody's happy.

                1. re: Jpan99

                  There are, however, many different kinds of sweet potatoes. At my favorite market anyway Light-skinned, light-fleshed, dark-skinned, dark-fleshed.

                  How come folks put sugar on yams? They are so sweet and lovely on their own Butter? Yes. Maybe a touch of maple syrup for flavor...but loads of brown sugar or white sugar or marshmallows or Coke? Ewwwww, overkill

                  1. re: Jpan99

                    Actually, sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing, though sometimes orange-fleshed "soft" sweet potatoes are mislabeled as yams in the U.S.(in other parts of the world yam is sometimes used to refer to any tropical tuber). Sweet potatoes are New World native, while yams existed in the Old World. Yams are drier,starchier, and blander than sweet potatoes, which accounts for sweet potatoes mostly replacing yams upon their introduction in areas where yams had previously been the main food source. See Oxford Companion to Food for more on both.

                  2. re: HaagenDazs

                    It used not to be important but if you live in an area where markets carry real yams, then it is more so than it used to be.

                  3. 1)applejack and crystalized ginger
                    2)ground new mexico chiles and prickly pear syrup
                    3)palm sugar instead of brown sugar, lemongrass
                    4)mexican brown sugar and dark rum

                    1. Simmer your "yams" in orange juice, butter and brown sugar....mmmmmmmm :) Skip the marshmallows.....ugh!!!
                      The TRUE Southern way calls for the above mixture.