There is one anecdote about her that I don't actually remember happening, but have heard my dad recount many times. At Thanksgiving dinner, when someone would inevitably bring a Pumpkin pie to the table, she would scrunch up her nose and pronounce "Pumpkin pie, that's Yankee!" She would then proceed to eat every bit of her slice.
It is because of this story that I made my first sweet potato pie while I was in college, cultivating my southern culinary roots. You see, if pumpkin pie is Yankee, then sweet potato pie is the pumpkin pie's quintessentially southern counterpart. They are like siblings who chose opposing sides in "The War of Northern Aggression." If you are a Yankee, please do not take offense. I like Yankees. I have many Yankee friends. Like my grandmother, I will eat a good slice of pumpkin pie. But I am southern, and must stay true to my roots.
The only issue that I have with sweet potato pie is that when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, a sweet potato casserole is one of the indispensable side dishes. A sweet potato pie is just redundant. You might as well stick with the typical, albeit Yankee, pumpkin pie and let the Pecan pie represent the south at Thanksgiving dinner. Sweet potato pie deserves to be a star, the southern belle of the dessert table. Enjoy this pie for a not-Thanksgiving feast.
Buttermilk Sweet Potato Pie
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 dash cloves
1 dash nutmeg
1 dash cinnamon
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a food processor, blend the ginger snaps until coarsely ground. Add the 4 tablespoons melted butter, dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and process until the butter is distributed. Pour the crumbs into a deep pie dish and press into the bottom and the sides. Bake at 325° for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and increase the oven temperature to 350°.
In a medium pot, place a steam basket and 1 to 2 inches of water. Put the sweet potatoes in the basket, cover, and steam for about 15 minutes. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly. Transfer to a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, blend the sweet potatoes until they are well pureed. Add the softened butter and sugars, and blend. Add the eggs, buttermilk, remaining spices, and vanilla, and blend on low until completely mixed.
Transfer the filling to the cooled pie crust. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 25 minutes (it will still be slightly jiggly in the center). Allow the pie to cool completely on a rack. Serve at room temperature, or cold.