Southern Cooking with Reggie: Sweet Potatoes

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my mom, Thelma, was born and raised in Gainesville, Alabama, a super small-town with lots of farmland, family, and great food! 

Every year when I was a kid, my mom, her sister, and we three kids, would go down to Alabama for two to three weeks to visit my grandparents and help work the farm. When I got a little older, my sister and I spent several of our summer vacations in Alabama, working as farm hands.

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According to my aunt, my grandfather bought our 45 acres of land in the 1940s and started the working family farm. For a Connecticut boy like me, going down to work on a farm was like visiting a different planet. All I remember was “working the chores,” as my grandfather would say, from sun up to sun down. The reward was when my mom, her two sisters, and my grandma started cooking. This was the time they created and shared new recipes and gossiped about family. In the south, gossiping is as much a part of preparing meals as any special ingredient.

The incredible smells from the main house would have all of us work faster and harder so when it became chow time, we would eat like pigs!

When my mom, aunts, and/or grandma would make a Golden Brown chicken, one of the best complements to the meal was southern-style sweet potatoes. Sweet and absolutely delicious, these potatoes taste more like a dessert than a side dish!

Thelma’s Southern-Style Sweet Potatoes 

You will be amazed how tasty and easy it is to make sweet potatoes with a southern twist. I’ve made these sweet potatoes for friends and every time, someone asks for the recipe. Now get ready for a mouthwatering treat!

To make Thelma’s southern-style sweet potatoes you will need:


6 large sweet potatoes (serves about 6 to 8 people)

¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (7.5 g) of ground cinnamon

1 cup to 1½ cups (200g–300g) of granulated sugar

½ cup (90 g) brown sugar

¼ stick of butter


Thoroughly clean potatoes by running under cold water. Dry off each potato with paper towel

Remove potato skin from all 6 potatoes with a potato peeler.

Using a sharp knife, cut ¼ inch (6 mm) lengthwise potato pieces and place them into the large saucepan until the potato is completely cut up.

Repeat this step with remaining sweet potatoes.

Pour granulated sugar over the potatoes in the saucepan. Make sure to completely cover all the potatoes.

Evenly pour ½ cup (90 g) of brown sugar over the potatoes and granulated sugar mix.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon over potatoes.


Pour a ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract over potatoes.


Place 3 to 4 slices of butter from the ¼ stick of butter over the mixture.

Place saucepan cover over the potatoes. (The cover will not completely cover the mixture.)

Refrigerate the potatoes for 1 to 2 hours. Refrigerating the potatoes longer will help the sugar to draw
out the natural fluid from the potatoes.

Cook mixture on medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Turn mixture 3 to 4 times until all the potatoes have browned and/or caramelized.

Turn off flame and let the potatoes cool a bit.

Place all the sweet potatoes in a casserole dish to serve.

For my next post, I’m going home to Connecticut to make a three-cheese macaroni and cheese with my aunt. Can’t wait to share the recipe with you, and maybe a little bit of family gossip!

– Reggie

Looking for some more family recipes? Why not check out The Best of The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook?


Long before the Internet and high-speed travel connected us all, The Farmer’s Wife magazine gave hard-working rural women a place to find—and share—advice about everything from raising chickens to running a farm kitchen. One of the magazine’s most popular offerings was advice on cooking and baking, providing farm family recipes for making everything from basic bread to nourishing stews and delicious desserts. The Best of The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook brings together 400 easy-to-follow recipes and variations along with dozens of menus that originated in farm kitchens nationwide and appeared on the pages of the magazine between 1893 and 1939. Readers will be able to prepare these foods easily and quickly, because the recipes have been updated to match the conveniences and ingredients of the modern kitchen. The Best of The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook is sure to satisfy readers in search of the flavors of farm country or those simply on the lookout for a piece of homegrown nostalgia.