Cooking a little history
January 10, 2016
I’ve had Brunswick stew on my mind since the ladies at my Forrest City office bragged on what they’d bought back in the early fall at the Methodist church fundraiser.
(As an aside: Is it just me, or are Methodists in general better cooks than other denominations? Maybe it’s because I grew up Methodist, and still am, but sure seems to me that Methodists depend a lot more on food-based fundraisers than do other denominations.)
Now, I have never made Brunswick stew, but as faithful readers will know, that has never stopped me. I perused a few recipes, found one that looked interesting, and set about to recreate it.
Brunswick stew is one of those things that differs, depending on where the chef learned to make it. In Virginia, it’s more chicken- based, a thicker stew, often with potatoes in it to thicken it. In Georgia, it has chicken, but it also has game meat and pork, or whatever’s handy, and it’s thick, but not with potatoes; it’s thick from the high preponderance of veggies and meat to liquid. The veggies are typically okra, lima beans or butterbeans, and corn. Historically, it dates from the 1800s in the Tidewater region of the Southern Atlantic seaboard.
I split the geographical difference and went with a typical North Carolina version of the stew, which traditionally uses smoked meat, and is generally served as a side at a barbecue restaurant. Now, I have to say that the only time I ever ate Brunswick stew in North Carolina, I was not overly impressed by it. In fact, I was not overly impressed with Tar Heel barbecue, either, but as you who know me know, I’m a homer when it comes to barbecue. If it ain’t from within 150 miles of Memphis, it ain’t good \ It’s simple enough to put together, particularly if you have a decent barbecue establishment near you where you can get meat by the pound or half-pound.
(And yes, I did it in the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot rocks, y’all. I’m just sayin’.)
Starts out like most good things — dice and saute an onion and some garlic. Then it takes off in a different direction. You add a quarter-cup each of tomato-based barbecue sauce and vinegar-based barbecue sauce; some salt and pepper; a pint of chicken broth; and a half a pound each of chopped, smoked pork, beef brisket and chicken. Dump in a quart of canned tomatoes (I pureed mine with the stick blender to smooth ’em out), and a 12-ounce bag each of lima beans and frozen whole-kernel corn. Carolina recipe didn’t call for okra, so I didn’t use it, being generally not fond of okra that is not fried.
And then you set it to slow cooking for several hours.
This stuff is Not Bad. It is, however, not exceptional, which is what I wanted it to be. You lose the barbecue taste (could possibly be remedied with the addition of more barbecue sauce, but I didn’t want to jack with it). I don’t know that I’d want it on a regular basis, as if it were, say, vegetable beef soup (for which I am starting to jones, and it’s going to be cold all week, so look for a pot roast followed by VB soup soon), but it’s a good, warming dinner on a cold, grey, rainy day. I didn’t salt mine starting out, not being certain how much the salt in the meat would impact it, and added just a bit at the end. I left out the cayenne pepper, as I’d used some hot barbecue sauce.
It makes a bunch — would probably serve a dozen or so, with the recommended sides of cole slaw and homemade white bread. Freezes well, and that’s where a bunch of mine is. So if you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em decide you’re hungry for some Brunswick stew, give me a shout. I got you covered.