I Discovered Something New

Over the river and through the wood to Judy’s house I go. 

It is the Saturday when the Hunnicutt side of the family meets at my sister’s house in Durham for an early Thanksgiving meal.

Each member is in charge of certain foods. My charge is to make the traditional Hunnicutt yams and give a try at some of my new crusty bread.

Our yams are unique because they make heavy use of allspice. The recipe is simple. I know we having been eating yams by this recipe on my father’s side since around 1875. I alone am the torch bearer and I modified the recipe a few years ago to add some cinnamon.

I take canned yams or small canned sweet potatoes and slice them in a casserole dish. Each layer of potatoes gets a sprinkle of sugar, allspice, and a few dollops of butter.  Keep doing this until you have the desired amount of yams.

I usually add a bit of the syrup from one of the cans.

They cook at 325 for however long you want to. Usually I cook them for an hour or until they begin to turn dark and caramelize.  

I modified the recipe a few years ago. I take the same ingredients but make a sauce on the side and add cinnamon to the sause. Once this gets syrupy and cools down I’ll pour the syrup in a zip lock bag full of yams and let them soak overnight.   

The next day I pour the mixture in a dish and bake as usual.  

What I discovered is allspice is a native Caribbean spice that tasted to the English like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves so they named it allspice.  The taste reminds me of native dishes I like in St Croix such as Goat Water Soup. Allspice is used in meat dishes on the islands.

Allspice is referred to as Pimento in some areas like Jamaica.  

This now explains to me the lyrics I hear in one of my favorite Reggae tunes:

We don't trouble your banana, we don't trouble your corn.

We don't trouble your pimento, we don't trouble you at all.

I thought they were growing pimento as in the red stuff in olives.  He’s talking about an allspice crop in the song.

I swear, one day I’m growing me some long thick dreadlocks and I’m moving down there.  


terri said...

Your yams sound delicious. My middle kid loves sweet potatoes. I might have to give your recipe a try.

Reggie Hunnicutt said...

They are good Terri...even cold a day later.

You can make a small batch with one can and use the layer method to try them out.

I stick with yams grown in NC but I'm sure Yankee yams would work too. :-)

Judy said...

Your Yams are the best!!!!
As the years go by I am starting to look like the lady in the painting holding the turkey. Oh, My.

Unknown said...

My mom is making the Hunnicutt Yams for our Jacksonville Thanksgiving. Rhonda thinks they are a must have!!!

It is the only way I will eat sweet potatoes or yams. By the way, what is the difference?

Reggie Hunnicutt said...

In the south people call sweet potatoes yams or sweet potatoes.

In Africa there is a food called a yam that is a root food like a sweet potato but it is different.

I suspect the term yam was brought over from blacks is how the term now means sweet potato.