Food & Drink

Local ingredients help Lowcountry Produce earn national praise, including a nod from Oprah

Word is spreading about the silky smooth butter made from sweet potatoes.

The gourmet spread -- handmade and packed by the Garrett family at Lowcountry Produce in Lobeco -- was recently selected by Oprah Winfrey as one of her favorite things for "The O List" in the December issue of O magazine, available to readers Monday.

The Garretts' special recipe has received other endorsements, as well. In June, the family's Sweet Potato Butter won the Silver Award at the Fancy Food Show -- "the food industry's version of an Oscar," said Noel Garrett, the youngest brother in the Lowcountry Produce family, which includes older brother, Dwight; mom, Martha; and dad, Dwight Sr.

The November issue of Traditional Home magazine selected the butter as a "must have" for your holiday pantry.

At the request of a customer, the family decided to make the butter. The recipe was developed by Dwight and includes roasted sweet potatoes, spices and citrus. A 16-ounce jar sells for $6.95 in the store and $8 online. The Garretts believe Oprah found their product at the Fancy Food Show in New York.

Noel delights in eating the Sweet Potato Butter "on the end of a spoon, slathered on a hot biscuit and dolloped into a pastry shell or phyllo dough and baked."

For the past five years, the family has been preserving products made from fresh Lowcountry fruits and vegetables and selling it locally. More recently they've been marketing their products where foodies can find them. And with all the recent accolades, their foods are finding fame at more than 1,500 stores nationwide.

The website for New York's famed "purveyors of fine food" Dean & DeLuca's Soho Marketplace suggests buyers "Add (Sweet Potato Butter) to pancake or waffle batter. Bake it in mini tart shells." The upscale store also carries the Garretts' Pear Chutney, Artichoke Relish and Sweet Cucumber Pickles with Jalapenos.

TAKING ROOT

It all began about 23 years ago when the family started an open-air produce stand. Recent additions have included a separate canning house, a bakery area and a grill kitchen where lunches of giant secret-ingredient hamburgers, Philly cheesesteaks and Greek gyros are cooked and served along with homemade side dishes. Only local produce is used, even if it's not from Lowcountry Produce.

Many of the ingredients for the Garretts' Lowcountry Gumbo, such as jalapenos, bell peppers and tomatoes, are grown by Dempsey Farms on St. Helena Island. Dwight and his crew wash the ingredients, chop them in an oversized blender, and then stir them with what looks like a miniature boat paddle. It's cooked in a 4-foot tall, 60-gallon pot before being ladled into the small batches of 16-ounce jars.

"This is as homemade as you can get it without making it yourself," Noel said.

Guilt-Free Sweet Potato Cheesecake

You will need an 8-by-3-inch springform pan and a larger pan to use for a water bath. This cheesecake is best made a day in advance to chill properly.

1 cup Lowcountry Produce Sweet Potato Butter2 pounds (4, 8-ounce packages) low-fat cream cheese, completely softened and at room temperature2 teaspoons vanilla extract3 teaspoons ground ginger1 1/2 cups Splenda4 extra large eggs3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs2 tablespoons butter

FOR THE CRUST

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-by-3-inch springform pan. Combine butter, graham cracker crumbs and 1 teaspoon ginger into a microwaveable container. Heat for 45 seconds in the microwave. Press mixture uniformly into the bottom of springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool.

FOR THE FILLING

Cream softened cream cheese in mixer. Add Splenda very slowly while you are smoothing your cream cheese. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of ginger, vanilla, Lowcountry Produce Sweet Potato Butter and four eggs, one at a time. As soon as the last egg is blended, turn off the mixer. Using a spatula, pour the mixture into the pan. Place springform pan into the larger pan. Add water to larger pan to create water bath. Bake for 2 hours, or until it is an even golden brown with small cracks forming.

Variation: For just a little guilt, add 7 ounces of goat cheese and 2 tablespoons of bourbon to the cheesecake mixture.

From Lowcountry Produce

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