Let’s talk regional delicacies, shall we? Like Black and White cookies from New York City, frozen custard from the Midwest, and San Francisco’s It’s-It ice cream sandwich, there’s an air of mystery and exotic appeal to sweet potato pecan pie for all of us not living in the Southeast.
Sweet potatoes, in pie? Oh my, how wonderfully rustic and old-fashioned. And pecans! Why, if there was ever a pie worthy enough to make into an ice cream flavor (after this one, this one, and obviously this one) it would be sweet potato pecan pie!
Okay, so the pie thing in ice cream has perhaps lost some of its avant-garde appeal, but while pumpkin pie has gotten the full treatment from most commercial ice cream makers, this is the first mass-produced take on a sweet potato flavor to my knowledge. Vegetables in ice cream usually go together like pizza and Twinkies, but add enough cream and brown sugar to anything—not to mention pecans—and you’ve got something thoroughly in the realm of dessert.
I’m not quite sure what to expect as I open the container. Will it be an unnatural Garfield the Cat orange? Will there be skins from the sweet potatoes? Will the Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” spontaneously start playing, serenading me to the virtues of other southern staples like sweet tea and homemade wine?
Here are the answers to those questions; no, no, and yes, although in the case of the last one, that’s because I had Pandora on in the background to set the mood. And yes, I set the mood before eating ice cream.
The color is a slightly darker version of vanilla, with a pleasant and not overpowering aroma of all the usual fall spices. I try to forget it’s May for a moment and dig in, immediately discovering that a viscous and plentiful pecan swirl runs its way throughout the base. However, there don’t appear to be any pecans. This shatters my only previous conceptions of sweet potato pecan pie, as gleaned from one to many hours gawking at Pinterest.
Obviously, the romantic in me covets plump and crunchy nuts in my ice cream. The actual person in me, though, laughs hysterically at “plump and crunchy nuts.” That person also recently ate pistachio ice cream with plump and crunchy nuts, and remembers it being totally “meh.” Truth be told, whole nuts in ice cream tend to have a raw and somewhat bitter flavor, and I’m thankful for being saved the overly gritty texture which can often ruin an ice cream’s base. By adding the pecans and an invert sugar swirl, this problem is avoided completely, creating a smooth and sweet textural component to compliment the base’s natural creamery fresh taste.
The flavor itself is brown sugar-cinnamon-caramel-sweet cream-pecan, then kinda pumpkiny, and exactly in that order. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of walking around New Orleans while sober with the sole intention of trying every free sample of pralines imaginable (what, doesn’t everyone?) you’ll recognize it tastes exactly like one of the sweet potato pralines offered by any of the numerous vendors. Take my word for it; this is an enjoyable taste, and one which you will come back for repeatedly.
Clearly, I’m impressed. The flavor is more nuanced than Turkey Hill’s graham cracker-infused pumpkin pie flavor, and it’s got a deeper, richer praline effect than your standard cinnamon ice creams. My one complaint is that the sweet potato flavor could use more development. I say this with some trepidation (do I really want to taste the vegetableness of a sweet potato in ice cream?) but knowing how well the brown sugar and cinnamon sweetness works, a little extra sweet potato flavor could go a long way.
Turkey Hill’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie is a great addition to what’s become a solid lineup of limited edition seasonal flavors, although calling it “seasonal” for May is more of a stretch than marketing the ice cream as a way to sneak vegetables into your diet would be. While the sweet potato flavor is restrained, the brown sugar and praline effect comes through in full force amidst the creamy base, and makes for a new and creative take on a southern specialty.
(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 6% calcium.)
Item: Turkey Hill Seasonal Favorite Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $2.50 (on sale)
Size: 1.5 quarts
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Excellent brown sugar-cinnamon and sweet cream flavor. Notes of caramel. Smooth pecan swirl provides pecan flavor without raw nut grit. Doesn’t taste like a vegetable flavored ice cream.
Cons: Could use a more pronounced sweet potato flavor. Base isn’t super premium or rich. Does not have the health benefits of an actual vegetable.