Either people are adamant about their love for cornbread or they absolutely hate it. There is no middle ground. Younger people expect something fluffy and sweet, and our cornbread is exactly the opposite of that. After it cools, it could go in your saddlebag and ride for days. There’s nothing fluffy or sweet about it.
After we opened Sam Jones BBQ, we had lots of complaints about the cornbread from folks who had never had it at Skylight. I’d rather make a living than be right, so Michael and I starting working on an alternative. We tried a few recipes that weren’t working out and were kind of at a loss about what to try next. Kathy Diaz, who is one of the anchors in the SJB kitchen, overheard us talking about our search. She said she had a good recipe and made it for us. When the muffins came out of the oven, I brushed some melted butter on the top, and we tasted them. We had a winner. Butter makes everything better.” – From Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue
These sweet potato muffins courtesy of North Carolina pitmaster Sam Jones and his new cookbook Whole Hog BBQ: The Gospel of Carolina Barbecue should make everyone at the Thanksgiving table happy.
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes
- 3⁄4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1⁄2 cups sour cream
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 7 large eggs, beaten
- 3 cups self-rising cornmeal (see note)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, until they are soft to the touch. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and mash them. Measure out 3 cups and set the potatoes aside.
Raise the oven temperature to 375. Line the cups of two, 12-cup muffin pans with paper or parchment liners.
Place the mashed sweet potatoes (warm from the oven or at room temperature) in a large bowl. Add the sugar, sour cream and 1/4 cup of the melted butter. Mix well. Add the eggs. Slowly add the cornmeal while mixing. Mix well until fully combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops have browned. Brush the hot muffins with the remaining 1/4 cup melted butter and removed from the pans to cool before serving. The muffins will keep, well-covered, for a day or two. Yields 24 muffins.
Note: If self-rising cornmeal is not available, you can make your own by adding 1 Tbsp. of baking powder and 1/2 tsp. of salt to a 1-cup measuring cup, then fill it the rest of the way with cornmeal. That will equal 1 cup self-rising cornmeal.
Photo by Denny Culbert.