February Is Sweet Potato Month in NC

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Perfectly baked sweet potatoFebruary is our absolute favorite month. Why, you ask? It’s National Sweet Potato Month in North Carolina-a full month dedicated to celebrating our favorite sweet spud. Most people think about sweet potatoes around the Thanksgiving holiday. But they are a great spud to eat any time of the year because they provide an excellent source of Vitamin A.

How do you like your sweet potatoes? Mashed in a casserole with a puffy marshmallow topping? Baked and topped with cinnamon butter or into a silky pie? A member of the morning glory family and native to Central America, sweet potatoes are not related to yams or regular potatoes. While yams and sweet potatoes are terms used interchangeably in the United States, the yams sold here are actually sweet potatoes.

This tuberous root has many varieties, but the two most widely grown are the pale sweet potato with light yellow skin and dry, less sweet yellow flesh; and the dark sweet potato with reddish skin and moist, sweet, dark-orange flesh.

The dark sweet potato is the most common in the U.S. and is in peak season fall through winter. If you’ve only used canned yams for your sweet potato dishes, it’s time to discover the incredible flavor and texture of fresh sweet potatoes.

Be sure to select firm sweet potatoes without cracks, bruises or mold. They should have a uniformly bright skin and be heavy for their size. Avoid any with decayed spots. When baking them whole, choose uniform-sized potatoes to ensure even cooking. Never refrigerate sweet potatoes or they will develop an off flavor. Store them in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month. If stored at room temperature, use them within 1 week. Always handle sweet potatoes gently to avoid bruising them since their skins are very thin.

Cooked sweet potatoes can be used interchangeably with winter squash in most recipes. There are several ways to enjoy the taste of sweet potatoes:

  • Slice or cube boiled sweet potatoes and glaze with honey or brown sugar.
  • Top baked sweet potatoes with dollops of sour cream.
  • Flavor mashed sweet potatoes with a touch of maple syrup and nutmeg and garnish with a sprinkle of toasted chopped pecans.
  • Roast peeled, cubed sweet potatoes alongside onions and other root vegetables for a flavorful side dish with pork, ham and poultry.
  • Replace half of the regular potatoes in your favorite recipes with sweet potatoes for a touch of color and sweet flavor.
  • Cinnamon, honey, coconut, lime and nutmeg all pair well with the flavor of sweet potatoes.
  • Add mashed cooked sweet potatoes to muffins, cakes, quick breads, biscuits, yeast breads and pies.

Simple Baked Sweet Potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
One-fourth teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. With a fork, pierce the sweet potatoes all over; place on foil and bake until fork tender, 45-60 minutes.
  3. With a sharp knife, cut a line down the center of each sweet potato, gently squeeze the ends to open.
  4. Top each sweet potato with 1 tablespoon butter and one-eighth teaspoon salt.

TIP: Sweet potatoes caramelize better if not wrapped in foil.

Sweet Potato Butter
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
Three-fourths cup honey
One-half tablespoon cinnamon
One-eighth teaspoon ground cloves
One-eighth teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan over low heat.
  2. Cook and stir until mixture is thick and smooth, about 25 minutes.
  3. Pour into two sterilized cups; cover and refrigerate.

Sweet Potato Pancakes
2 medium sweet potatoes
One-half cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
One-half teaspoon nutmeg
One-half teaspoon salt
1-one-half cups buttermilk, half & half or whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Rub outside of sweet potatoes with oil. Wrap separately in foil; place in a baking pan. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until fork tender. Remove and let cool.
  3. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  4. In separate bowl, combine milk, eggs and melted butter. Combine with dry mixture; whisk well.
  5. Peel baked sweet potatoes and mash with a fork. Fold three-fourths of the mashed sweet potatoes into the batter. If needed, add additional milk as your batter should be thick, but easy to pour.
  6. Heat a buttered pan over medium heat.
  7. Pour about one-fourth cup of batter onto pan; cook until bubbles begin to form, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip over and cook an additional 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter.
  8. Serve pancakes with remaining mashed sweet potato and maple syrup.