The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.
[Eat4Fun: Brunswick Stew is a recipe I've heard about quite often, but never really looked into it. I always thought it was named after a New England city, Brunswick, Maine. I don't know why I thought Maine, but apparently the stew is a Southern classic.
Wolf from Wolf's Den is our host for this challenge and provides the history behind this recipe. I learn something new with all these challenges. :-) ]
Brunswick Stew has a long, and oft debated history. Brunswick, Georgia claimed that the first Brunswick Stew was created there in 1898. There is, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on Interstate 95, a bronzed stew pot with a plaque proclaiming this fact.
However, Brunswick, Virginia claims that the first Brunswick Stew was created there by a camp cook named Jimmy Matthews in 1828, for a hunting expedition led by Dr. Creed Haskings, a member of the Virginia State Legislature for a number of years. He was said to have used squirrel in the original Brunswick Stew created for the group when they returned. The hunters were at first skeptical of the thick, hearty concoction, but upon tasting it, were convinced and asked for more.
Every year, there is an Annual Brunswick Stew Cookoff that pits ‘Stewmasters’ from both Virgina and Georgia against their counterparts, and takes place every October in Georgia.
In the early 20th Cent, the rivalry of the two Brunswicks helped make this dish as popular as it is today, and it quickly became a pan-Southern classic. Some recipe call for the original addition of squirrel, but most allow for chicken, turkey, ham, or pork, even beef on occasion. Rabbit is also used. The vegetables can vary widely from variation to variation, however, the Brunswick Stewmasters recipe says *exactly* what is used in competion stews, and states that “Adding any additional ingredient(s) will disqualify the stew from being an original Brunswick Stew.”
However, most agree that, Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.”
The first recipe is more traditional - long and involved, as can be many Southern recipes. The second was the very first Brunswick stew I ever tasted. Both are fairly straight forward and easy, requiring no special equipment, techniques, or super hard to find ingredients.
Recipe Source(s)- The first is from “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee”, and the second from the Callaway, Va Ruritan Club, who hand out cards with their recipe printed on them, every year at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, and where I tried my first ever Brunswick Stew.
Mandatory- You must use one of the two recipes provided. Now, to not exclude our vegans/vegetarians, if you’d like, use vegetable stock and leave out the meats. It won’t be a ‘true’ Brunswick Stew, but it’ll have the spirit of one.}J There’s no gluten anywhere in this that I’m aware of, so we’re good in that regard.
[I opted to to do the first recipe so for the second recipe please see Wolf's Den.]
Recipes may be halved if you choose.
You may substitute any vegetables you don’t prefer. You may use fresh, canned or frozen vegetables. My variations are included in the notes. For example- some recipes include okra in their stew, others use creamed corn.
You may sub out the rabbit for pork, turkey, beef, or even another game animal if you have it available.
[Thank goodness we can sub out the rabbit. I wouldn't even know where to find rabbit.]
Recipe One, the Long Way-
From “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Serves about 12
1/4 lb / 113.88 grams / 4 oz slab bacon, rough diced
2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
1lb / 455.52 grams / 16oz rabbit, quartered, skinned
1 4-5lb / 1822.08- 2277.6 grams / 64-80oz chicken, quartered, skinned, and most of the fat removed
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / ½ oz sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
2-3 quarts / 8-12 cups / 64.607-96.9oz Sunday Chicken Broth [I used homemade stock]
2 Bay leaves
2 large celery stalks
2lbs / 911.04 grams / 32oz Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz carrots (about 5 small carrots), chopped
3 ½ / 804.72 grams / 28.266oz cups onion (about 4 medium onions) chopped
2 cups / 459.84 grams / 16.152oz fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)
3 cups / 689.76 grams / 24.228oz butterbeans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen
1 35oz can / 996.45 grams / 4 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
¼ cup / 57.48 grams / 2.019 oz red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
Tabasco sauce to taste
[In place of rabbit, I used chicken. To keep it lean and similar to rabbit, I skinned the chicken. However, I did leave the skin on the wings. Also, for extra flavor and keeping it Southern, I used a smoked turkey wing.]
[Bay and chili pods]
[Yukon potatoes and red tomatoes.]
1-In the largest stockpot you have, which is hopefully larger than the 5 qt ones I have, preferably a 10-12 qt or even a Dutch Oven if you’re lucky enough to have one, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.
2- Season liberally both sides of the rabbit and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Place the rabbit pieces in the pot and sear off all sides possible. You just want to brown them, not cook them completely. Remove to bowl with bacon and chiles, add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and rabbit. Set it aside.
[After frying the bacon, the chicken was slightly browned with the chili pods. With all of the flavorful pan fond on the bottom, I added the aromatics to sweat and loosen the fond.]
3- Add 2 cups of your chicken broth or stock, if you prefer, to the pan and basically deglaze the4 pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, rabbit, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. Supposedly, the stock may become a yellow tinge with pieces of chicken or rabbit floating up, the celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.
[Butterbeans is another name for lima beans. I look for frozen lima beans and could not find any. I ended up with dried beans, which I rehydrated overnight. As a result, I added the beans early in the cooking process.
Broth and the smoked turkey drumstick was added to the limas and aromatics.]
[Next, I added the chicken to allow for all the flavors to meld and cook.]
4- With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and rabbit pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart. Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon and discard.5 After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften.
[The meat is retrieved and taken off the bone.]
5- Add in your onion, butterbeans, corn and tomatoes. As you add the tomatoes, crush them up, be careful not to pull a me, and squirt juice straight up into the air, requiring cleaning of the entire stove. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butterbeans are tender. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired.
[Next, the potatoes and tomatoes, plus more broth and the meat is added to continue cooking]
[Finally the frozen vegetables is added for the last bit of cooking. Finished off with the vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.]
6 You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side.
The Finished Dish:
When I think about Southern cooking, I think about corn bread. The Brunswick stew was served over corn bread.
The stew had a rich smokey ham flavor which reminded me of red beans and rice.
A very nice, flavorful, hearty Southern meal.