17th C. Candied Sweet Potatoes


This recipe surprised me.

I had been looking for likely candidates for fictional and historical Thanksgiving recipes, when I stumbled upon this dish in one of my cookbooks. I had my doubts about the rose water, but decided to try it anyway. It turns out that it’s not that much different from a standard candied sweet potatoes recipe. The rose and orange flavors go surprisingly well together, and with simmering, the syrup takes on a bit of the earthiness of the yams themselves.

The syrup isn’t as thick as in the more common modern version, but is still quite sweet. If anything, its a slightly more delicate and complex series of flavors than I am used to in this dish, and came together quite nicely. I still missed the lack of a spice, but that could be easily remedied. 🙂

Recipe for Candied Sweet Potatoes

“Boile your roots in faire water untill they bee somewhat tender then pill of the skinne, then make your syrupe, weying to every pound of roots a pound of sugar and a quarter of a pinte of faire water, & as much of rose water, & the juice of three for fowre orenges, then boile the syrupe & scum it, then cut your roots in the middle & put them into the syrup, & boile them till they bee thoughlie soaked in the syrupe, before you take it from the fire, put in a little musk and amber greece.” –Eleanor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, 17th century

Cook’s Notes: I’ve omitted the musk and ambergris at the end of the recipe, mostly for the sake of expense and availability. I imagine, however, that they would make for a significantly different and much more fragrant dish.


  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rose water
  • 3/4 cup orange juice

Parboil the sweet potatoes in a pot of water for about 10 minutes, or until they are just shy of tender, then drain and peel. Cut into largeish chunks; any small pieces may fall apart in the syrup. 

Combine the sugar, water, rose water, and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Turn the heat down to a low simmer, then add the cut sweet potatoes. Cook slowly for another 30-45 minutes, depending on how long they were parboiled. The finished potatoes should be tender and full of sweet, syrupy flavor. If you like, you can let the potatoes sit in the syrup overnight, making this a great dish to prepare ahead of time. 



3 thoughts on “17th C. Candied Sweet Potatoes

  1. Wonderful and unexpected!

    BTW: I have read a little bit about ambergris in historic recipes and would be kind of interested seeing you tackle this strange favorite of past kings and queens. *g*

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