As sweet and satisfying as any dessert, Mother Arlene’s sweet potatoes are always a hit at church potluck dinners, funeral dinners, and most especially at the Mother’s Day Feast hosted by the Baptist church. The recipe has been in Mother Arlene’s family for generations, and while she will gladly share it with anyone who asks, there is something extra special about the dish when prepared by Mother Arlene herself. That something extra is love, and it’s the ingredient Shirley Tedesco needs on the particular Mother’s Day she and her family spend with their best friends, the Roberts family, at their church.
The following recipe is the one I had in mind when creating the above-mentioned scene. The deep, rich flavor of these potatoes makes them a welcome addition to any dinner table, but don’t wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy them. Mother Arlene’s sweet potatoes will add spice to your middle-of-the-week menu and make you glad you tried them.
PS – Don’t be shocked by Mother Arlene’s inclusion of bourbon in her recipe. This Godly, graceful woman is no fool when it comes to using this classic, American spirit in moderation as a flavoring for her famous sweet potatoes just like her mother taught her. “Oh, honey—it’ll be our little secret,” she will say as she presses the recipe into your palm.
Mother Arlene’s Sweet Potatoes
5 large sweet potatoes
8 T unsalted butter
½ t sea salt
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t ground nutmeg
¼ t ground clove
¼ t ground ginger
Dash of allspice
¾ c sugar (I used raw)
½ c dark brown sugar
1 T vanilla
2 T bourbon
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Wash the sweet potatoes and peel them. Remove any bad spots with a paring knife. Cut the sweet potatoes into slices about a half-inch thick and place them in a large bowl.
Place the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. When the butter is melted, stir in the sugars, spices, vanilla, and bourbon. Keep over the heat until the sugars are melted.
Pour the syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes and stir to coat them thoroughly. Transfer the potatoes to a 9 x 13 glass baking dish taking care to scrape all the syrup mixture from the bowl into the baking dish.
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake the potatoes for 30 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and carefully baste the sweet potatoes with the syrup mixture. Replace the foil on the baking dish and return it to the oven for another 15 – 20 minutes or until a small knife penetrates a potato slice with ease.
Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.