Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stew on This!

Today's post is on one of my family's favorites: Brunswick Stew. This stew is largely southern in its roots, but beyond that there's a bit of a debate about its origins. There's no really set way to go about making Brunswick Stew; it's basic ingredients consist of tomatoes, lima beans, corn, and okra, but meat and other ingredients vary (seriously, the original recipe called for squirrel). So anyway, this is my family's recipe, and its probably a good bit different than another recipe; that's just the nature of this beast. This recipe goes at least 4 generations back, though I'm sure it's evolved along the way as it passed from cook to cook. Oh, and traditionally this thing is cooked most, if not all, of the day; that's why it's a stew.  So, plan accordingly and start no later than noon.

What You'll Need
1 big stock pot or iron kettle                                   Knife for chopping and dicing
1 long cooking spoon                                               Measuring cups (liquid and dry)
Cutting board                                                          Measuring spoons
64 oz broth                                                              2 sticks butter
52 oz diced tomatoes                                               40 oz chicken, shredded (2 1/2 lbs)
4 onions, diced                                                         1 cup apple cider vinegar
32 oz frozen lima beans                                           1 cup sugar
32 oz frozen corn                                                     1/2 cup ketchup
24 oz potatoes, chopped                                           2 Tbsp mustard
10 stalks celery, finely minced                                6 cloves of garlic, minced
16 oz frozen okra                                                     Salt and pepper, to taste

Now Let's Make Brunswick Stew!
Before we begin, I have a few notes on ingredients, since, as I've said, the ingredients in Brunswick Stew are by no means set.  For the meat, you want to make sure to use something that can be shredded.  You can achieve that by boiling a chicken (hey presto, you've got your broth, too!), or by using leftover smoked chicken, like I did.  Or, you can do a combination of meats; sometimes I add in pulled pork barbecue.  It's up to you and your taste. Also, if you have the veggies for this recipe hanging around fresh, that's awesome! (I don't, and I'm cheap, and I'm lazy).

Finely minced, as it should be
To start, we need to do some prep work.  You may notice that some of those ingredients have additional descriptions attached, and it's time to make those happen.
  • If you haven't already shredded your chicken, do so now.  If it's easy to do, just pull it apart with your hands, being mindful to weed out any bones (especially those long prickly dangerous ones).  If you can't use your hands, or are using cooked chicken breast, pull a fork along the meat to begin the shredding process.  Set the meat aside. 
  • Chop and dice your 4 onions, wipe your eyes and set them aside. 
  • Chop up your potatoes into small, bite-size chunks.  Don't bother peeling them, but do wash them ahead of time. Set the potatoes aside.  
  • Now, take your 10 stalks of celery and dice them up. Now mince, mince I say,  until it's very fine. (I hate celery but know it adds necessary flavor; mincing it fine makes it less noticeable). Set the celery aside.  
  • If you need to, mince the garlic and set it aside, too. (I always use the jarred, pre-minced stuff).
Take a deep breath, the prep work is done.  Put your big stock pot on the stove, and add the broth to it (veggie or chicken broth, I'm not picky).  Set the heat to medium-high, which is about a 7 on my stove.  Add your cans of diced tomatoes, juice included.  Then add the add your veggies: onions, limas, corn, potatoes, celery, and okra.  Give it a stir, stirring from bottom to top, scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking.  Cut the 2 sticks of butter into chunks, dropping them into the stew as you go. (stop cringing at the amount of butter and look at all those veggies!).

I forgot a picture when the meat
went in, so you get potatoes.
Once this mixture has heated through, add your meat and stir it in thoroughly.  Let the stew cook for a while.  Stir it regularly during this interval, making sure to stir from the bottom to prevent sticking.  When the veggies are soft enough, begin mashing them up whenever you stir until you've got a thick mush.  It's okay if some of the veggies are still in good shape; you just want a large portion to be mashed up.

After the stew has reached the aforementioned mashed state, add the vinegar and sugar, and stir them in thoroughly. Then add the ketchup and mustard (yes, that's right ketchup and mustard. Shut up! It's tasty). Stir these in well.  Lastly, add the minced garlic and salt and pepper, to taste, and stir them in well.  Reduce the heat to a low setting so that the stew will simmer. Continue to cook for at least an hour before serving, but keep in mind that the longer it cooks, the better the flavor will be.

Brunswick Stew with Irish Soda Bread
Serve with a thick slice of bread. I recommend Irish Soda Bread without the raisins, as it's thick heartiness suits Brunswick stew particularly well.  If you have any leftover stew (and you will, unless you're feeding a horde), you can store some for leftovers and freeze the rest.  This stew freezes really well, and it's great to be able to pull some out during the winter.



  1. Stupid auto correct strikes again! I meant looks good. Oops, actually I think it was me, not the auto correct thingy. 8-/

  2. "Goop pod" sounds like something slightly menacing. "And lo, out of the pod came the gigantic Goop to destroy mankind."

    I need to try this fabled stew of Brunswick.

  3. I have a recipe of your grandmother's that called for squirrel and all kinds of other meats. I've missed this stew....I'll make some. Made soda bread again tonight...with raisins this time. So yummy! Haley, this blog is just great!

  4. Lol. "goop pod" has to be one of the funnier typos I've read in a while.

    And Aunt Caiti, that's the recipe. I have the original (I think) that was given to your parents from a friend of the family. You should make some; mom helped me get it right when I was experimenting with it originally. And, thanks.


You know you want to . . .