Saturday I went over to Morningside Park’s annual Cane Boil. I didn’t get there until late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. Watching the women boil the cane juice in the huge reproduction syrup cauldron in their working 19th century costumes, using all period utensils was a transportive experience. I love watching reenactors who dress in their costumes often enough that they become clothes.
All of the cane syrup was sold when I got there, so everyone had to wait for this batch to finish boiling down and get bottled before we could buy our syrup. I had planned on walking in, buying some cane syrup, and leaving… but watching the women work was mesmerizing. The woman in the striped apron was a pro. That’s boiling hot syrup she’s tossing around! They were obviously having a good time, too.
By the time the syrup was ready there was quite a crowd gathered around the syrup shed. The fair was well over by then but everyone just waited patiently. It would be done when it was done, and we were all willing to wait.
Then it was my turn! I got two big bottles of fresh cane syrup, the bottles were still so hot you couldn’t hold them for more than a minute.
Cane syrup is our equivalent of maple syrup- it’s nothing but the juice from crushed sugarcane, boiled down until reduced and thickened. Nothing added, only water taken away. It’s stronger than maple syrup but lighter than sorghum, a little darker in color than Grade B maple syrup, but not as strong or thick as molasses. It’s my favorite liquid unrefined sugar and not only because it’s produced right here in Alachua County. It’s delicious and extremely versatile.
When I got home I immediately started brainstorming. What would I make with my new cane syrup? What would highlight the deep caramel-sweet flavor and beautiful amber color? Mmmm, pie.
Sweet Potato Pie with Cane Syrup
If you don’t live in a cane syrup-producing area, you can substitute maple syrup, sorghum syrup, or amber agave. If you want to try honey, start with half the amount and add to taste.
4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and steamed)
1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 c cane syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
2 pie crusts (frozen purchased crusts for me, I suck at pie crust)
Move one oven rack to the bottom, and one to the middle. Heat the oven to 350. Get out a big cookie sheet with a lip.
Foolproof filling method: put half of the sweet potatoes, eggs, cream, and syrup in the blender. Pulse until it’s combined, then puree until completely smooth. Scrape into a big bowl. Then do the same with the other half, and add the spices. Scrape into the same bowl and mix thoroughly. This is the best way to get the filling absolutely smooth.
Put the pie tins with the raw pie shells on the cookie sheet. Scrape half the filling into each pie shell. Put into the oven on the bottom rack for 30 minutes. (Baking the pie on the bottom rack cooks the bottom of the pastry crust properly so it’s not undercooked and gooey.) Then move the cookie sheet to the middle rack, rotating the pies if necessary. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the filling no longer jiggles in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.
Sweet potato pie makes an excellent breakfast!