Apr. 14th, 2010 at 12:02 PM
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.
Hey! Wait, that's me!
In all my years of living here in the South, I'd never tried Brunswick Stew, that ubiquitous pan-Southern classic that's at nearly every State fair or Festival here. And I've lived here 9+ years. Well, until 2+ years ago.
The first time I tried Brunswick Stew was at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Va, where Mark persuaded me to at least try it. I'll admit, at first it never appealed to me, because nearly every version prior to the Ruritan Club's, had always had okra and lima beans in it. I hate okra. I hate lima beans as well. So, I never ate it until that day.
The Callaway Ruritan Club doesn't use okra. They don't even use lima beans. Those were big points in their favor. So we got bowls of the Stew and found a place to sit.
I liked it. I really liked it. In fact, I liked it so much, I went up and got one of the little cards they were handing out with the recipe printed on it.
And then, I promptly misplaced it as soon as I got home. Yeah.
Fast forward to last Dec. I received an email from Liz about possibly hosting a Daring Cooks Challenge. I jumped at the chance and promptly said, yes! Of course! Can I have April, cause it's my birth day month?! Needless to say, Liz laughed at me and gave me April as my month to host.}:P
Then I panicked. What the devil would I do for said Challenge? Yikes.
I called my mom. Help! I said! Well, what do you have in mind, she replied. I have no idea! I said, clearly stressed. So she sent me her Traditional Macedonian Recipes book, thinking maybe I'd find something in there. I asked Mark's mom too, but she too, had no ideas. Then I started looking through my cookbooks. Hmm, maybe Greek. How about German...
Then after a month, Mark said to me, hey. K.I.S.S. I naturally looked at him like he was an idiot. Well, he IS a blonde. And he, exasperated, said, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Do a Brunswick Stew.
You know. Sometimes the man is a genius. That is one of the many reasons I married him.}:P
We headed to Barnes and Noble the next weekend, where we both scoured cookbooks for the perfect recipe, as surprisingly, none of mine had one in them. Still puzzled over that one.
There we found this book. It was perfect and reminded us strongly of the Brunswick Stew we'd had. So that was what we went with. Never you mind the fact it has lots of really interesting recipes in it too. (But I really suggest getting a copy, it's a really neat book!)
Then in JANUARY, yes, January, I first did the Challenge to test it out for everyone and make sure it was fairly straightforward. I also found the misplaced recipe card.}:P
So. The Stew.
First, make sure you have a stock pot that will hold at least 10 quarts. Trust me. I went and got a 16 qt one after I made this because it filled, to the brim, both of my 4 qt stock pots. Yeah.
In the bottom of your stock pot, brown your bacon. Now, I left the bacon in my finished stew, because it seemed a waste to remove it and throw it away at the end of the cooking process. Anyway, brown it, and then remove it to a large bowl, set aside.
While the bacon is browning, slice and deseed at least 2 Serrano Chiles. I ended up using 3 the second time I made this. You then toss them into the bacon fat in the bottom of your pot. Quickly saute them just until you can start to smell them. Should take 2-3 minutes. Remove to the bowl with the bacon.
Hopefully you were smart and prepped your chicken and rabbit if you use it, or pork country style ribs in my case, prior to starting. Remove the skin and fat from the chicken, cut the pork into manageable chunks, then liberally salt and pepper all sides.
Then, carefully so you don't splatter yourself, place the chicken and pork in your pot, trying not to crowd the pieces, and brown all sides. Once the pieces are browned, remove them to the bowl with the bacon and chiles. Continue until all meat is browned.
Now, I cheated. I used store bought chicken stock instead of homemade. Mainly because I used all my homemade in the previous Daring Cooks Challenge, risotto.}:P So you take a couple cups, and pour it into your stock pot, using a wooden spoon to scrap the browned bits from the bottom. Essentially, you're deglazing the pot. Boil the stock until it reduces by half. It smelled amazing at this point, already.
While the stock was reducing, I chopped up the onion, celery, and carrots. Now, the recipe says to remove the celery as well. Pfft, I like celery, so I chopped it up and left it in. I'm also fortunate to have my own Bay plant on hand, so was able to use fresh bay in my Stew. Dried is customarily what's used though. I also chopped up my red potatoes as well.
Once the initial stock had reduced, you add your chopped potatoes and meats back into the pot. Then you add the rest of the stock and let it merrily cook away...
Until the meat starts to fall apart and come off the bones. Then you remove the meat to the same bowl you used earlier. Once it cools enough to handle safely, you shred the meats, removing all the bones. Well, as many as you can find. Mark found a tiny one in his Stew. Whoops. After you shred the meat, add it back to the pot of potatoes and stock.
Then you add your carrots, and after stirring, realize you need another pot to add everything else because it's already way full. Yikes. See what I mean about a BIG stock pot? Yeah. After you split it, more or less evenly, you let it cook until the carrots are tender and just starting to pale in color.
Meanwhile, open the butterbeans (or limas if you decided to use them) and your tomatoes. Drain the beans, but not the tomatoes. You want that bit of juice.
After the carrots cook, you then add everything else, crushing the tomatoes and tearing them into pieces as you add them. Mine decided to make a mess and squirt me with juice, both times that I made this. Heh. Gently stir to thoroughly mix everything and then let it come back up to a slow boil. Yes, it will start smelling absolutely delicious.
Near the end, you add in your red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Also, salt and pepper to taste. Stir it again to mix in the vinegar and lemon juice. I suggest tasting it BEFORE you add either, as some people liked it without and some liked it with. So it's a matter of personal taste, really.
Now, the first time I made this back in January, I forgot to take a spoon standing on its own photo. This time, when I made it on my birth day (yes, yes, I know, what was I doing making my own birth day dinner. Well, when you figure that out tell me. I also made my own desserts too- Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Icing. Yum ) , I remembered to get that photo! Whee! And it stood up in the bowls as well.}:P Well, not THIS spoon, but the individual spoons did. Heh.
The finished Stew! This is a very filling Stew, great with cornbread or dumplings, or other rolls. And it freezes well too, so don't be afraid of having leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, be sure to check out some of the other Daring Cooks' finished Challenges. Several did Vegan styles, and several made other dishes with their leftovers! It was awesome seeing them all.
RECIPES! And a bit of background history!
1- I used 2 Serrano Chiles, fresh, stemmed, deseeded and sliced into quarters. Use what you have on hand or can get easily.
2- I used pork (country style pork ribs, which here, are mostly meat, with very little bone) instead of rabbit, as it is hard to find, as well as rather on the expensive side. In fact, the original recipe says to “substitute 1 1/2lbs of boneless pork shoulder cut to 1” dice”.
3- I used Swanson’s Cooking Chicken Stock, rather than make my own, as it would have added extra time to an already long cooking time. You could use your own homemade stock or store bought if you prefer.
4- I used frozen corn, canned butterbeans, red onions, red skinned potatoes, frozen carrots, and chopped the celery into a rough dice. You could also use lima beans if butterbeans are not handy or easy to find.
5- Now, it seemed to me that is was a waste of perfectly good bacon and celery to simply discard them. So I left them in mine. The chiles fell apart as I tried to remove them, so only the skins were actually removed. You could do the same if you choose.
6- You can use dried bay leaves if you do not have fresh handy. In fact, the ONLY reason I used fresh myself, is because I happen to have a Bay plant. Otherwise, dried is generally the way to go.
Poultry Seasoning contains variations of sage, thyme, pepper, marjoram or other similar herbs. You can substitute with your favorite herbs and spices if you cannot find actual poultry seasoning.
Recipe 1- Estimated time-3-4 hours, longer if making the Sunday Chicken Broth, or your own stock from scratch
Recipe 2- Estimated Time- 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours, depending on whether you have your meats already cooked first.
Large stock pot, at least 10-12qt OR Dutch Oven , or smaller if you halve the recipe used
Measuring cups and spoons
Large wooden spoon for stirring
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 (recipe below)
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
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Recipe Two, The Short Way-
This version goes on the assumption that you already have cooked your meats and have broth on hand. This was also my first experience with eating Brunswick stew. It’s got more of a tomato base, has larger, chunkier vegetables, but is just as wonderful as recipe one. However, it is a lot quicker to make than the first recipe.
Brunswick Stew recipe from the Callaway, Va Ruritan Club, served yearly at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Va.
Serves about 10
2 ½ lb TOTAL diced stewed chicken, turkey, and ham, with broth - yes, all three meats
3 medium diced potatoes
2 medium ripe crushed tomatoes
2 medium diced onions
3 cups/ 689.76 grams / 24.228oz frozen corn
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz frozen lima beans
4-5 strips crumbled bacon
½ stick / 4 tablespoons / ¼ cup / 56.94 grams / 2oz of butter
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / .5 oz sugar
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / .5 oz ‘Poultry Seasoning’
Dash of red pepper
2 diced carrots (optional)
In large stock pot or Dutch Oven, mix all ingredients, heat until bubbly and hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato juice as desired. Cook until all vegetables are tender. Serve hot.
Optional- Not required for the Challenge-
Sunday Chicken Broth
From “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Makes about 1 quart (4 cups or 919.68 grams or 32.303 oz)
Estimated Time- 1 ¼ hours
Bones and trimmings, but not giblets, of one 3 ½- 4 ½ lb (1594.32-2049.84 grams or 56-72 oz) chicken, or 12-14 oz / 341.64-398.58 grams / approx. 2 cups chicken bones and trimmings
1 large onion, trimmed, peeled, quartered
6 large stems fresh flat leaf parsley
1 stalk celery, cut into 2” lengths
2 large bay leaves
5 cups / 1149.6 grams / 40.379 oz cold water
1 cup / 229.92 grams / 8.076oz crisp dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Place bones/trimmings in medium stockpot and add onion, parsley, celery and bay leaves. Add wine and water, liquid should cover all ingredients, if not, add more until it does. Bring to vigorous simmer over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer gently for roughly 45 minutes to an hour, skimming any scum or fat that comes to the surface.
Strain broth into bowl through fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Measure what you are left with, if not planning to further reduce, then salt and pepper to taste.
Store in tightly sealed container in refrigerator until the remaining fat congeals on the top. Remove the fat, and unless not using within 2 days, keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze, and it will keep for upwards of a month.
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.