Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holiday Dinner Side: Yams with Spiced Beer Jelly

Thanksgiving dinner just wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner without yams, now, would it?  Well, yes, it probably would, but I'll get to that in a minute. 

These yams are simple & tasty; the perfect complement to your turkey and stuffing, both in taste and color.  I love the richness it adds to the plate.

Except...these aren't yams.  After discussing the difference between yams and sweet potatoes with a friend, and thinking I had the differences down, and after buying 3 large 'yams' at the supermarket...I wasn't convinced that I was right about what is a yam and what isn't.  I doubted - what IS a yam?  And after going on about 15 web sites and piecing together information (can I get a picture, for Christ's sakes?) I found out that while on paper I did 'know' the differences (yams aren't as sweet, they are difficult to come by in the US, they have a darker skin, etc.), I still couldn't identify one at the market.  And my guess is that many of you can't, either.  In the three pictures below, can you tell me which one is yams?

From my most recent CSA shipment


Beauties at the grocery store...I bought 3

Answer:  Trick question, none of them are.  I thought that #3 was, and I was wrong.  But don't feel bad if you can't identify a yam - most Americans have never actually seen one.  See below...even Vons Supermarket thinks these are yams.  Although, that's not the funniest thing in this picture - these yam imposters were just .48 cents per pound when I bought mine 2 days ago!

Turns out that TRUE yams grow to be up to 7 feet long, have a tough, hairy skin, and are very difficult to get in the US, in fact they are fairly unavailable (they are not available in their fresh form, some places have them cubed in bags and are sold frozen - canned 'yams' are probably not yams).  One of the top 3 popular varieties harvested is grown primarily in Asia and has purple flesh, not the orange flesh we all know and love.  Most have white flesh, but there are over 200 varieties.  Isn't Mother Earth amazing?  See pictures below of actual yams, and click HERE for the best explanation I found on the differences between yams and sweet potatoes.  Now you don't need to go searching any longer. ;-)

True yams get up to 7 ft long

True Yams
So, the beautiful side dish I created for a Friendsgiving dinner (pictured at top and bottom) are really sweet potatoes, the variety we often think of-and grocery stores label-as yams.  A slightly reddish skin with orange flesh results in this gorgeous display of color, and I don't care what you call them, really, because this recipe resulted in the perfect sweetness without robbing the 'yams' of their natural flavor--they are delicious.  And for me, it was really fun to incorporate my spiced beer jelly that I created with Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte Porter into a real-life recipe!  Recipe below.

My soon-to-be famous Yams with Spiced Beer Jelly
And just in case you were wondering...
Photo #1. Muraskai Sweet Potatoes from Farm Fresh to You
Photo #2.  Sweet potatoes commonly found in supermarkets - these were at Vons
Photo #3.  Orange-flesh sweet potatoes labeled as yams at Vons supermarket

Spiced Beer Jelly, Sweet Potatoes
3 Large Sweet Potatoes (labeled "Yams")
1 stick of butter, sliced in 4 pieces (I didn't say these are the healthy version)
6-8 oz. of Spiced Beer Jelly (See Blog Post for how to make)
2 cinnamon sticks

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes.  Place cubes into a large pot along with cinnamon sticks and fill with water, covering yams by 1 inch.  Cook on high for approximately 30-40 minutes (I cooked for 40) until you can easily smash with a fork. Pour cubes into a colander.  Remove cinnamon sticks.  Move cubes to a ceramic bowl, add butter.  Continue to smash and stir with a fork until you get the sweet potatoes to a smooth consistency.  Add spiced beer jelly 1 spoonful at a time to incorporate throughout.  You can use a mixer to make these last steps easier, but I like the look and texture when I do it by hand.  xo, AB


  1. thanks for all the good info and the recipe- you should really send me some beer jelly so that I can try this recipe :)

  2. I cleared out my preserves cupboard this morning and took count of all I have. You will be getting a beer jelly. :-)