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Brunswick Stew

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I spent a good nine years in Atlanta going for my doctorate at Georgia Tech. Well, I did dally a little, well a lot.

I have always enjoyed Brunswick stew there, even if it did involve road kills at times. My question is: what makes Brunswick stew Brunswick stew? How did it originate? I have tried Brunswick stew in a BBQ chain restaurant up here in the midwest and it sucked bananas. When I go to places that supposedly serve southern foods around the country, many have never heard of Brunswick stew, so regional is it?

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  1. The story that I have always known is that it originated in Brunswich County, Virginia. And I have never known it to be made with roadkill. The original meat in the recipe was squirrel that was obtained by shooting it, not scraping it off I95.

    I now make mine with chicken and leftover pork butt from my smoker.

    It is primarily found in the south. You will find something similar in Kentucky (no disrespect here) which is called Burgoo. I enjoy both immensely. Especially when you make it one day and let it sit overnight before you rewarm it to eat.

    John

    14 Replies
    1. re: RibDog

      the folks in Brunswick, GA will boil you in a pot of stew for saying it came fr/ VA. Brunswick, VA & Brunswick, GA have been arguing for years over which place gets the notoriety for the first stew. There is even a pot in the front of the Brunswick, GA visitors' center that is claimed to be the first pot used to make the stew. Like so many things we will never know the truth but it does make for some fun stories.

      1. re: Lan4Dawg

        I knew I was going to step on some toes somewhere but sometimes you have to jump right in.

        To be honest with you, it does not matter to me where it came from. All I know is that I really enjoy it. Especially after it has been around for a few days!

        Enjoy!

        John

        1. re: RibDog

          Doesn't matter where it originated. It's a delicious stew. Folks in Mississippi cook it in big iron pots on a wooden fire on old cotton plantations for lunch on opening day of dove season and stir the pot with a boat paddle as they needed a large amount for all the hunters. They use huges amounts of chicken, pork and beef. I learned from an ole timer and used pork, chicken and squirrels. You boil the meat and it becomes "stringy" and along with corn, tomatoes, onions, celery, parsley, butter, catsup et al, it's mighty good. Email me and I will send you an original recipe.

          1. re: Ike!

            Ketchup? Ketchup in Brunswick stew? Blasphemy! And besides, where are the lima (or butter) beans, a principal ingredient (mainly for thickening)?

            I agree wholeheartedly on the squirrel - it gives a taste that is especially good in the stew, so why cover it with ketchup? Parsley's a little uptown , though.

            1. re: Sandy

              Actually the best Brunswick stew recipe I have is one from Brunswick GA that involved mixing a little ketchup with cider vinegar and red pepper, sort of like a bbq sauce. Add that towards the end of cooking and throw in about 8 or 9 smushed saltines for thickening. To me, this tastes like I want Brunswick stew to taste, and judging by the lack of leftovers at the New Year's Eve bonfires where it's been served, I'd say others appreciated it, too.

              1. re: Sandy

                My family's brunswick stew recipe passed down 3 or 4 generations has ketchup as one of the ingredients and it does not have any lima beans

              2. re: Ike!

                Ike, the beauty of Brunswick stew is that there is no real "recipe". I have seen grown men almost come to fisticuffs b/c one likes limas in his stew & the other thinks limas are blasphemous. ":^)

                1. re: Ike!

                  We must be from the same place in MS - that's just how I remember it. Plus it was used for church fundraisers. We'd make it at home with chicken and pork.
                  I still make it, but use pork butt off the grill along with the chicken.

                  1. re: Ike!

                    Hi Ike, your recipe sound like just what I'm looking for. I'm a Southern Girl and my Grandma Evelyn made the best Bruswick stew I've ever tasted. Unfortunately she passed away and did not leave even one of her amazing recipes. Would you please send me your recipe to
                    providence0319@yahoo.com. Thanks for your post and response.

                2. re: Lan4Dawg

                  There's an annual contest between Brunswick, GA & Brunswick Co, VA to see who can cook the best pot of stew. The winner takes home a trophy that's kept in the city/county hall of the winner. It's all in fun, but they do take their bragging rights pretty seriously.

                  I also seem to remember Brunswick, Maine laying a claim to the stew as well....

                3. re: RibDog

                  Burgoo was, indeed, originally a hunter's stew where you threw everything you shot, trapped or gathered into a big iron pot and cooked it so long that hardly anything in it was recognizable--and every batch was slightly different.
                  It's still quite a tradition in Kentucky, especially at the racetrack and around Derby time. Goes good with a julep (what doesn't?) ;-)

                  1. re: RibDog

                    But isn't Burgoo primarily a lamb-based stew?

                    1. re: Savannahian

                      No not really. While lamb is a part of the recipes that I have, it is not the only meat involved. Heck, even the Moonlight BBQ Inn burgoo recipe that I got from Tom FL has chicken along with lamb in it. I want to give proper credit here also in that all my recipes came from Tom FL. Thanks Tom!

                      Tom's wife is a Kentucky girl and likes a recipe that has pork, veal, beef, lamb, and chicken in it. May sound the kitchen sink but that is the intent of burgoo. You use whatever meats are available. Even if it might be squirrel, venison, rabbit and/or bear.

                      John

                      1. re: RibDog

                        From my 19 years in Kentucky, I had always heard that you got the pot boiling and then sat down in a clearing in such a way that whatever flew over you could shoot and have it land in the pot. You then fleshed it out with whatever walked or ran by in the trees or on the ground. Really good eating, though.

                  2. Brunswick stew was always a standard side dish at big bbq's when I was growing up in Alabama. I certainly never hear of it here in St. Louis. There is a recipe in White Trash Cooking although I have to admit it produces so much stew that I've never tried it. The Joy of Cooking also covers the topic.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: M&M

                      Wow, I certainly learned a lot. I had Brunswick Stew at Bandanas here is St. Louis. Not thick enough and way too sweet.

                    2. In Georgia, Brunswick stew is eaten on rice as an accompaniment to bbq, In South Carolina, it is eaten as a stew itself, whereas hash is eaten on rice as an accompaniment to bbq, correctly according to the Law and the Prophets. This probably accounts for the ketchup in the Georgia/Alabama version.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: Sandy

                        I may have to call you on this one, my friend.

                        While I cannot speak for other parts of Georgia, in Savannah, I have NEVER seen brunswick stew served on rice, and it can be found all over town.

                        Eat your stew with Captain's wafers, like God intended! :-)

                        1. re: Savannahian

                          I have to agree with Savannahian. I have been to a lot of GA BBQ places and have never had it served on rice. Not saying you are wrong but I have never seen this.

                          John

                          1. re: RibDog

                            Had it on rice 2 years in a row at the end-of-ride (bicycles) bbq supper in a Georgia town which shall go un-named, since the bbq was not to my taste at all. Preparation done by local civic group. I'm not an expert on GA bbq, nor have I eaten it over a wide area, so I'll have to bow to local judgement as to the norm.

                            1. re: Sandy

                              I grew up in Ga. and agree with RibDog and Savannahian about the rice. Unless, of course, it is something recent, your experience was (thankfully,IMO) an anomaly. I'd surely love to have some barbecue and Brunswick stew right now, but I live way up north.

                              1. re: Marcia

                                I'm from GA and now live in SC. I LOVE Brunswick stew, but hate SC hash. Here's my great-grandmother's explanation that she told me as a child of where the name and dish came from (she was from Savannah and lived to be 95). (I know several food stories from her.) Gumbo is a southern staple that was introduced by slaves. It was okra, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shrimp, fish chunks and occasionally other vegetables that might be available. In south GA - around the Waycross area - they liked the shrimp and other meats kept separate - when they were available at all. Somehow turtle meat was readily available and not good by itself and tended to only be good when boiled to shreds. (note: the Waycross area still holds a rattle snake round-up and hold cooking contests for snake meat too). Okra somehow left the recipe. Bottom line: Gumbo lost its okra, added turtle and took the name from the coastal town of Brunswick. I guess shredded pork and/or chicken eventually took the place of the turtle. I've never had it over rice, but agree that Captain's wafers are the way to go. The absolute best stew is around the coast of GA, but if you're inland go to Fresh Air BBQ in Jackson, GA (about 40miles south of Atlanta or the "new" place in Macon - new means less than 25 years old). In SC they have Frogmore stew which I think is similar that migrated it's way north up the coast to the Charleston area. I haven't read any of the Gullah history books but I bet they explain the evolution of this delicious stew also.

                                1. re: Debopeep

                                  The Rattlesnake Roundup is held each March in Claxton, GA, about 60 miles west of Savannah.

                                  Lowcountry Boil (also called Frogmore Stew, Beaufort Stew, etc) is nothing like Brunswick Stew. It's simply a conglomerate of Shrimp, Crab, Corn on the cob, smoked sausage, and whatever else is handy, boiled together until done, the liquid drained off, and the rest of the ingredients poured out on a table covered with newspapers, and eaten from there. There was a recent thread in the "South" list that covered this dish's probable origins and variations.

                                  Why do you hate the SC bbq hash? Which versions (they are legion, according to contents and maker) have you had? Some taste very close to the GA version of Brunswick Stew.

                                  1. re: Debopeep

                                    of course brunswick stew originated in brunswick, ga.
                                    however, beans and potatoes were added by the commercial industry to bring down food cost. i make a gallon of stew 4-6 times a week. heres a recipie passed down in my ga family......
                                    1 lb smoked chicken,1 lb smoked pork, 1 lb smoked beef, 1 bell pepper, 1 med onion, 2 quarts diced fresh tomatoes, 3 quarts kernel corn(crack half of the corn in a food processor), 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespooon blk pepper. chop meat fine, combine all ingredients, cook for 1 to 1.5 hours til veggies are tender. let stand for a while. done/////

                                    1. re: Debopeep

                                      Frogmore Stew and Brunswick Stew are two COMPLETELY different things. Frogmore Stew isn't even really a stew - it's really more like a lobster pot in terms of prep and serving. Sandy has it right on, although I've never in my life seen crab in Frogmore Stew (and I'm a Charleston native).

                              2. re: Savannahian

                                neither me.
                                I have never seen it served over rice. My guess is that some one fr/ socar or louisiana thought of the idea.

                                1. re: Lan4Dawg

                                  It might have also been a way to extend the stew. It would help keep the food cost down for the item it was served over rice.

                                  John

                                2. re: Savannahian

                                  With Captain's wafers? I grew up in Athens (23 years worth) watching the Dogs whup on everyone (well, they used to, now they're rising again) and the only thing I ever ate brunswick stew with was Wonder Bread or Sunbeam bread.

                                  1. re: Savannahian

                                    HELP!
                                    My church, the Stockbridge First United Methodist burned on June 8, 2002.

                                    We are trying to raise money every way possible to rebuild and have been fairly successful with a couple BBQs, but our Brunswick Stew is not up to par.

                                    We will have a fall festival near the end of October, with BBQ, Pumkin Sale, Yard Sale and more.

                                    We need a good large quantity "South Georgia Brunswick Stew Recipe"

                                    All help you can offer is sincerely appreciated.
                                    Thank You
                                    Fred

                                    1. re: Fred Prince

                                      to quote Roy Blount, Jr., "Brunswick stew is what happens when small mammals carrying ears of corn fall into barbecue pits."
                                      There are some great receipts out there. Check Marion Farmer's "Southern Cookbook" as well as John Edge's "A Gracious Plenty" for some traditional receipts. There is an entire chapter devoted to Brunswick Stew w/ several receipts (inc. Camille Glenn's) in Joseph Dabney's excellent book, "Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine".
                                      We tend to omit the squirrel & hog's head when making at home & just grind pork, chicken, & turkey together saute w/ onions, celery, chopped peppers (I prefer sweeter red peppers to green) a little crushed garlic (but not too much or it will overpower the stew), add tomatoes, corn, limas (& quite frankly whatever other veg we have on hand) until it looks right. Salt, pepper, & hot sauce and a touch of pepper vinegar until it tastes right.
                                      Which Stockbridge UMC? not the one in Georgia is it? I do not remember hearing about a fire there so curious.

                                      1. re: Fred Prince

                                        Just when I was going to pass along our favorite Brunswick Stew recipe, I realized it is from Yorktown, VA, and likely not a "Georgia" style recipe. I did clip some Brunswick Stew recipes from "Southern Living" a few years back, and some of the intro comments for a couple of their recipes may be worth relaying here:
                                        An Alberta, Virginia (uh oh, wrong state, again) chef says the poultry must be a hen- not a broiler-fryer- for more fat and a richer flavor. If you've got a good broth, then you've got a good stew, says the stewmaster.
                                        A stewmaker from Brunswick, Georgia says "the real secret is in the preparation method-cold beer, a smoker full of fresh pork, cooking all night, and telling a zillion lies with your buddies." Sounds like the perfect formula for a church benefit, doesn't it?
                                        (Source: Southern Living, January, 1991.)

                                      2. re: Savannahian

                                        I'm a native georgian and I've never heard of eating brunswick stew on rice! We make our own and it's eaten as stew in a bowl!

                                        1. re: Herb

                                          Yes. With saltines and hot sauce. I make a mean Brunswick Stew. But it's so simple. It's like mid-South gumbo, but so much more cheap and easy, and just as flexible.

                                    2. I'm from N GA and spent many hours of my childhood 'stirring' the Brunswick Stew. It was a 2 day process of chopping meats (beef, chicken, pork & venison), preparing the tomatoes & other vegetables from the garden. Then, we'd can as many quarts of it that we could be saved from immediate consumption!
                                      This is probably blasphemy, but I now enjoy this "quick' recipe and you'd be surprised at how close it is to our time consuming huge pot of Brunswick Stew -- and I still make it with love!

                                      Quick Brunswick Stew

                                      1 medium onion, chopped
                                      1 can Castleberrys BBQ Beef
                                      1 can Castleberrys BBQ Pork
                                      1 large can white chicken meat, drained
                                      1 can lima beans, drained and rinsed, optional
                                      1 can whole kernel corn, drained
                                      1 can creamed corn
                                      2 16 oz. cans tomatoes
                                      1 can Rotel tomatoes
                                      16 oz. Water
                                      1 10 oz. pkg frozen cut Okra
                                      Salt and Pepper to taste

                                      Use a 4 quart stock pot. Cook onions in 1 tsp. of oil till clear. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium low heat for at least one hour. Serve this with Tobasco & oyster crackers.

                                      1. in savannah, the stew has PIECES floating around in it....not like the inevitable mush one gets here in north ga. lots of yummy pieces, chicken, pork, tomatoes,corn, butter beans. i attribute the mush to the use of commercial pressure cookers...i witnessed that at zeb's bbq and realized why stew had deteriorated to mush. the best recipe i have ever made was given by that food genius of the south, craig claiborne, the food editor of the NY times for many years (and i might say the only reason to read that rag). he is gone now and i don't know what i did with the recipe. if anyone can track it down, it will be worth it and you should share.