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Recipe of the Week – Thomas Jefferson’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

by Leigh Sackett

When celebrating Independence Day a standard hot dog, hamburger, watermelon cookout with sparklers in hand is great but what I am seeking this year is a celebration that is steeped in  authenticity for this wonderful American holiday.

The City Tavern opened for business in Philadelphia in the year 1774. In May of that year, Paul Revere announced at the Tavern’s doors that Parliament was closing Boston Harbor. In 1777 the Tavern hosted the first official Fourth of July celebration where George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams drank their first toasts to the new nation’s birth. The City Tavern is still open today and is an amazing ongoing bit of history itself.

I probably won’t forgo hamburgers completely, but I am planning on cooking up the recipe below on the 4th of July. it is from “City Tavern Cookbook” – a wonderful cookbook that is full of authentic recipes for 18th century cuisine.

I not going authentic early America this year to drive my family crazy; I just believe we need to be more intentional than we have been in remembering what the 4th of July (and our other holidays) are TRULY all about. Those fireworks are just a response to the real reason for celebration – not the celebration itself. So the kids may roll their eyes but we are going 18th century all the way this year!! So get out the candles, the lights are going out!


For some great and fun Independence Day trivia go to this website –  or better yet take your family on the fourth to visit one of the many historical sites right here in Virginia!

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup solid frozen vegetable shortening

2 cups roasted, mashed, and cooled sweet potatoes

1 cup heavy cream (plus more if needed)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and allspice. Add the shortening and cut in with 2 knives or hands until crumbly. In another bowl combine sweet potatoes, cream and pecans. Make well in dry ingredients and add potato-cream mixture. Mix to combine. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut out with a 2-inch floured biscuit cutter. Place biscuits 1-inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn down temperature to 375 and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or let cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

~Leigh Sackett


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