Appalachia Appalachian Food

Roastin’ Sweet Taters

Easiest candied sweet potato recipe

Candied Sweet Potatoes 

Roastin’ Sweet Potatoes – Murphy written by John Parris

Sitting around a hearthfire of a winter night roasting sweet potatoes in the ashes is one of Aunt Tennie Cloer’s fondest memories.

“Back when I was a girl,” she said, “folks got a heap of pleasure in the simple things. And roastin’ potatoes in the fireplace was one of them. They were all the go back then.”

“Folks would drop in of a night and gather around the fireplace and we’d take sweet potatoes and cover them with ashes and embers and sit around and talk and tell stories while they roasted.”

“When the potatoes were done, we’d rake them out of the fireplace and knock off the ashes and blow on ’em until we could hold ’em without burning our hands. Then we’d have a good time eating ’em.”

“Unless you’ve had sweet potatoes roasted in ashes, you can’t begin to know how good they taste. Especially on a cold night before the fire.”

Aunt Tennie, who is 92 years old, grew up on Sugar Fork River over in Macon County back in the days when the hearth was the center of the home-the source of warmth, sometimes light, and always food.


We’ve been on a sweet potato kick around the Blind Pig house. We’ve been baking ours in the oven instead of roastin them in the ashes, but they’re still good.

Granny once told me she could barely remember her Grandpa taking her to see an old woman that lived in a log cabin somewhere along Highway 141. She said the lady was old as the hills and she cooked them something to eat right there on the hearth.


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  • Reply
    Auther Ray
    April 3, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    Sweet potatoes are good just about any way you fix them.

  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    April 10, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    When I was little Mama cooked on a wood stove. She would get up early and get the stove heated up and start our breakfast and throw in Sweet Potatoes with the biscuits. I would smell those taters and lie and say I had a stomach ache so she wouldn’t send me to school because I wanted to be home when those taters came out hot. About 10 she would ask me did I think I could keep a sweet potato down (of course I could!)

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 1, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Sometimes we just eat one big ole sweet tater for supper…with celery sticks or other green thang…We love them baked in the oven but nowadays don’t think that far ahead…I just poke them good with a knife, butter all over and wrap them in saran wrap and throw them in the microwave…It has a tater done sensor so lets us know when they are done…We ease them out on a plate, give them a whack to sqush them a bit…pull off the wrap and slather them with butter, sprinkle on brown sugar and cinnamon…yummmm….so good…
    Thanks for the reminder today…down to my last few taters..
    Loved this post…

  • Reply
    March 8, 2018 at 9:09 am

    I’ve often thought of trying to roast sweet potatoes in my woodstove, but they are so expensive I’m afraid of ruining some in the process of learning how to do it right. It’s hard to even find good sweet potatoes in the grocery stores here, and I wonder is it like that everywhere? So many have been cut into during harvesting and have big scars and spots that look like spoilage and so on. Sweet potatoes – especially the “white” ones that look gold on the inside when you cook them – are one thing I’d like to grow for myself, but between the stony stony rocky stony soil here and the difficulty in finding the right place to “cure” them as all the instructions say, well, I’m afraid it would be a wasted effort. Still…if I can find a source for a few of those “white” slips, I might give it a try this year.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      February 1, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      Quinn….I always heard a good sandy soil with rocks was the best place to grow sweet potatoes…One year we made it to Pickins SC…just as the Sweet tater crop was coming in…that morning I think every farmer from NC and SC to GA brought in a load of the prettiest Sweet Taters and every shade of orange and white grown in this part of the South…
      They were practically giving them away…A big brown paper bag was offered…pick out your own and fill it to the top for one dollar…My Momma loved sweet taters and could eat them three times a day…she bought herself two bags full to tote back over the mountain to East Tennessee…as did we…
      Hope your tater crop does well…

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. Did you hit home with this memory. I remember when we would go visiting the relatives. There were only three places to converge and gather as a family. The kitchen table where we as kids could watch grandma and great grandma fight over who was cooking what which way. As kids we thought we would keep them company i the kitchen when in fact they wanted to keep an eye on us. There was nothing like the TLC like mixing a bowl of icing knowing that we would be allowed to use our fingers to clean what was left of the icing or a bowl that need to be mixed.

    Next place to congregate as a family was at the dinner table, (also known as the kitchen table which was moved to the center of the room). Then after dinner we would clean up and put everything back, (the extra chairs), according to great grandma’s wishes and we would take a few steps in to the living room toward the fireplace, the third place. The folks would discuss the current events and their neighbors doings. We as kids would listen as the adults would sometimes get animated over something that really didn’t matter to us kids. We would just listen and see how everyone interacted. Grandpa would slip 4 or 5 sweet potatoes into the ashes and cover them up. It was our job to make sure that they didn’t get burnt or any of the sweet potatoes skins still shown through the ashes.

    After awhile grandpa and dad would fish them out of the fireplace. They would wipe them off and put them on a large dish to cool. After awhile, grandma would cut a few in half and give each one of the kids half a sweet potato. We would look at it in wonder as we would shift it from one hand to another all the while blowing on both the sweet potato and our free hand.

    Just as the sweet potatoes begin to cool enough to be held in our hands, grandma would slap on a slab of butter and place it on our sweet potato. Again we had something to do, we had to eat the sweet potato before the butter would drip off the potato. Our hands would get all buttery. After awhile the last remembrance of the sweet potato disappeared into our mouths. We would then lick what was left of the butter on our fingers before grandma and great grandma would bring out the kitchen towel and start cleaning our hands and faces, only to hear grandma scolding us to stop wiggling like wiggly little worms. That’s when we knew that she really loved us one and all.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve had many a sweet tater and Irish potato baked in the ashes of my homeade wood stove during those terrible snowstorms and the power was out for several days. Some of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten was cooked in the stove with the fire just coals. Hickory wood makes a good, hot fire and when it dies down, it’s perfect for cooking with the doors flung open. My daddy was like Papaw, he’d rather have white sweet potatoes.

    Glad to see Charles Fletcher commenting again. Charles, I hope you’re doing well at 96. …Ken

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Tipper, you always manage to drum up a memory or two. That is the part I like most about your blog. I have very early memory of my Uncle and I roasting Irish potatoes on a pot bellied stove. We would patiently roll them until they wee done. Family would come by and join us for a potato. Another sweet memory is that my mother loved sweet potatoes. Since she lived with me the last years of her life, I learned to cook sweet potatoes all kinds of ways. I never cook them anymore.

    I found the neatest contraption at a flea market and bought it. It looked like you could stick a cheese sandwich in, clamp it shut, and grill it in the fireplace. Sadly, I waited until the grandkids got too old to enjoy. I have kept it just in case. I used to have a delightful time having a picnic with them right there in the back yard, but somehow missed a chance to camp out in the living room and make a grill cheese in the fireplace. I guess I am just a big kid at heart!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    March 5, 2018 at 10:13 am

    We roasted white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and unshucked ears of corn in the ashes of the fires at the tobacco barns while tending the fires overnight.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    March 5, 2018 at 10:00 am

    While growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina
    we did many things that the younger generation never heard of
    as they grow up today. Not only did we bake sweet potatoes on
    the big open fire place of our log house we also cooked other
    things as we sat around the fire on those long cold days of winter.
    We had a neighbor that had young boys we would visit often. The
    oldest man in their house was their “Grand Pa Lindsay.” He
    was the only person I ever saw that would bake eggs on the
    hot ashes of this big open wood fire. He would make a very
    small hole in the egg with his knife. He then would carefully
    place the egg in the ashes from the big log wood fire and cover
    it with glowing red ashes. I never did figure out how Grandpa Lindsay
    knew when the eggs were cooked and ready to remove from the
    I am now 96 years old and still thing back about the ways we did back
    in what we often refer to as “THE GOOD OLD DAYS.”
    Charles-(Charlie) Fletcher

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 9:40 am

    We also baked taters (sweet and arsh) by wrapping them in some good old red clay mud and throwing them right in the campfire. It was a hit and miss sort of a thing because there is no way to test them for doneness, but when you’re out camping everything is good. The raw and the burnt and anything in between.

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    March 5, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Did you ever eat sweet potato pie?

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 5, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Never knew anyone who cooked in the fireplace but I would guess I just barely missed it. I grew up with a wood cook stove which I guess must have been the next stage after cooking in the fireplace. Cooking with a cook stove was an art and I expect cooking with an open fire was even more of one. Yet in its day it was no cause for remark because so common. Goes far to explain how folks could set out to the West Coast. Cooking on the trail was not that different from cooking at home except when it rained or snowed.

    My brother and I and our Grandma used to sit at night and crack walnuts and hickory nuts. But we didn’t have a fireplace. It had been closed up with a ‘stove board’.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Sweet taters really do take on a different and better taste when roasted in the ashes of a stove or fireplace. We mostly roasted ice taters in the ashes. Sometimes when we took them out, they would be charred and real crusty with little left to eat. My parents burned coal and that made the fire and embers hotter.
    Mom cooked many a pot of soup beans on top of the pot bellied stove. She still had to build a fire in the kitchen stove to finish supper and heat the room so we could all eat at the kitchen table every single day.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 8:39 am

    I love a baked sweet tater but it’s got to be a white sweet tater. I’d as sooner starve than to eat one of them arng ones. I take a long slender white sweet tater, warsh it good and bake it in the oven til the skin is burnt black and turnin aloose. Now then I let it get cold before I eat it. Most people like em hot with butter and such but me I like em cold with nothin but tater. The peelin’ll come off of em like a banana and the meat’ll be sweetern candy. The sugar in the tater has to get cold before it is its sweetest. You can heat it back up and mix it with butter or sirp or what not if you want to but me I like mine cold.
    Mommy used to bake sweet taters for us to take to school in our lunch pokes some times. Mikerwaves hadn’t even been thunk of back in them days sos it was eat it cold or not at all. If your classroom was on the sunny side of the schoolhouse you could warm your lunch by settin it up in the winder if the sun was ashining.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    March 5, 2018 at 8:28 am

    I remember doing this with my cousins, and to this day I eat my sweet potatoes out of the oven with no butter. It’s so good !

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 5, 2018 at 8:22 am

    The best baked Irish potatoes I ever had were baked in the ashes! Next time we have a weenie roast, we’ll try the sweet taters.

    When our son was little we used to often have a campfire. Had a lot of fun & roasted a lot of stuff on a shovel. Have you ever had the banana split open & stuffed with marshmallow & chocolate roasted over the fire? It is yummy!

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    March 5, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Crock-Pot for about 3 hours…or pressure cooker for 30 minutes. Lots of butter. Good eating.

  • Reply
    Cindy Pressley
    March 5, 2018 at 7:53 am

    Tip, I’d have to call sweet potatoes the forgotten food. I like them and I always enjoy them when I eat them but… the but is that I don’t remember to cook them. I have no idea why I forget a food that I enjoy. I must also add that I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a sweet potato roasted in an open fire.
    I’m going to put sweet potatoes in my grocery list!

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    March 5, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Add some butter and brown sugar-YUM, YUM!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    March 5, 2018 at 6:50 am

    I read one time that Daniel Boone died from eating too many sweet taters.
    My Father in Law always called them music root.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    March 5, 2018 at 6:46 am

    I’ve roasted taters and onions in the fire place, but don’t remember ever roasting sweet taters. Roasted onions are really good, A strong onion becomes really sweet.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      September 14, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      AW Griff…I sure can understand the reference to Sweet Potatoes…they are supposed to be one of the most colon friendly vegetables and good for you…However, my Daddy and Mother called “Chestnuts” musical fruit….as well as Pinto Beans…My Dad was often accused of eatin’ too many boiled chestnuts…LOL
      Thanks for the memory..

  • Reply
    March 5, 2018 at 5:42 am

    Haven’t had sweet potatoes in a while, but just thoughts makes me want some. Our Daughter use to eat them all the time she loved’m , my wife found some sweet potato patties in the deli at one of the grocery stores wrapped in those meat trays, and they were pretty good, heat them up in the micro-wave add butter and sugar, it was fine eatn.

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