Foodie Fridays - Brunswick Stew
Happy Friday! And not only a happy Friday but a Foodie Friday! It's been forever since I shared a recipe, but this came out so good and since it's supposed to be absolutely frigid (at least by Mississippi standards) I thought I would share. So would you like a story and a recipe? Sure you do. =)
As it goes sometimes in my life my hubby and I were talking Friday night during my birthday supper about food of all things. He looked at me and said, “You know what I have a craving for?”
“I have no idea.” And with him you really have no idea. He’s a well traveled truck driver that loves all kinds of food so for him it could be anything from borracho beans to Italian cream cake.
“Brunswick stew.” was his reply.
Now Brunswick stew for me churns up a whole host of memories as a child. My daddy was and still is a volunteer firefighter and I can remember when our fire department in Montpelier was built. I can’t remember the actual date, but I do remember it’s construction. Mr. Red was our first fire chief. It takes a lot of money to outfit a brand new fire station, but thankfully our little community was well up to the task. We had fish fries, sold tickets for give-a-ways, set up a booth at the Prairie Arts Festival in West Point in August and sold hamburgers, pulled pork sandwiches with slaw, and more potato salad than should be legal. Every fall we also had a Brunswick stew cooking.
For weeks there would be prep work. Local grocery stores would give us bags of potatoes, those huge institutional cans of vegetables, sacks of onions, and the wives would scour the sale papers for cheap meat, and three for $5 cases of drinks. The work would start Friday afternoon with meat being boiled down and pulled off the bone along with all the mountains of potatoes we would peel. Mine and another boy’s picture was in the Daily Times Leader one year - a picture of us peeling what seemed like a mountain of potatoes. Onions would be chopped, propane tanks filled, and big black antique wash-pots checked for cracks. Because to make real, true, Brunswick stew it needs to be made in a big, black cast iron wash pot. These pots have been passed down through families, scavenged from antique stores, and traded through local classified papers. At 20, 50, or 75 gallon capacity the pots were originally used to heat water for washing clothes, and now work great to make gallons of stew to sell for fundraisers.
This history of Brunswick stew if fraught with legend and dispute. Did it originate in Brunswick, Virginia or Brunswick, Georgia? Or did the Indians invent it all along. It even made it into the New York Times! You can read that article HERE. History is clear that it started as a hunter’s stew using what had been harvested in a day's hunt along with fresh and put up vegetables from the garden. The stew can contain wild game such as deer or squirrel and also chicken, beef, or pork. The vegetables used vary by region - butter beans, corn, celery, onion, potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, tomatoes, and I’ve even seen some recipes using okra. There’s also a divide when it comes to thickness. Some make their stew so thick the paddle (yes you use a boat paddle to stir the stew) will stand up, that’s how you know it’s done. Then there’s the tradition to make it more as a traditional soupy thick stew where each vegetable maintains it’s individuality. People even have differing opinions on whether it’s served with cornbread, crackers, or white loaf bread. Each region has its own tradition of what Brunswick stew is to them. As I started trying to find a recipe Saturday afternoon it became apparent I had two problems.
- My cook books all had recipes to make stew to feed a 100 people or more.
- The recipes online that purported to be “Southern” all had BBQ sauce in them. Sacrilege.
So, I had to improvise. I used the basic ingredients in my books, the one recipe online that looked somewhat authentic, and my memory. I’ve never cooked Brunswick stew. It holds a place in my heart like my Great-Grandmother’s coconut cake. What I make is never going to be as good as what I remember. I finally made a coconut layer cake. I might as well tackle this stew. One day I’ll make it on the stove in one of my cast iron dutch ovens, but I thought this would be the perfect thing to make in the crockpot since this soup really needs to cook a long time for all the flavors to combine together and part of the character of the soup is that long, slowl cooked taste.
The hubby gave it two thumbs up by the way. It needed more chicken and the second can of tomatoes for me, but for a first try it turned out pretty darn good!
The only thing that’s a little work to this stew is the meat cooking. But I’ll give you some ideas to get around that. If you like this please let me know! I’m always trying to improve my recipes and would love to hear if you like this, hated it, whatever.
You will need a larger crockpot for this, or you can make it on the stove, but I would cook it at least 4 hours. See why I just threw it in the crockpot?
On with the recipe!
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
1 lb beef stew mean - cheaper the better could also use a small cheap roast
1 12 oz can diced tomatoes - double if you like a lot of tomatoes in your stew
1 14 oz can white creamed corn
1 15 oz can whole kernel corn
1 14 oz can green beans
1 27 oz can green butter beans
1 large onion chopped
5 or 6 red new potatoes diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups beef broth or water or reserved cooking liquid from cooking meat
1 beef and 1 chicken bullion cube
You'll need shredded meat for Brunswick stew so I boiled my chicken and stew meat together with enough water to cover and then some along with a chicken and beef bullion cube, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder until the meat would fall apart. I reserved the cooking liquid and had about 4 cups.
If you're busy or don't want to boil the meat, just grab two rotisserie chickens from the deli and pull them off the bone.
After that it's just a matter of opening all the cans and dumping everything into the crockpot and giving it a good stir. If you don't have enough liquid just add some water. I cooked mine on low for about 8 hours. I served mine with cornbread, but I'll let you decide what you like best.
Have a great weekend my lovelies!