Brunswick Stew

March 1, 2010 · 9 comments

filed in: Chicken/Poultry,Main Courses,Pork,Soups/Stews,Vegetables

Brunswick Stew

Brunswick stew is one of the great, and one of the oldest, comfort food dishes of the American South. That said, if you were to quiz twenty Southerners about its ingredients you might get at least that many answers. The Brunswick, Virginia version uses chicken, rabbit, or squirrel as a meat base. In Brunswick, Georgia, hickory-smoked pork and beef are preferred. In both cases, however, this main course dish is a very thick concoction of slow-cooked meat and the New World vegetables included in succotash: lima beans, corn, and tomatoes. Perhaps some peppers and potatoes, too. And, as one might expect of a Southern stew, it is typically served with cornbread or buttermilk biscuits.

In the following recipe, I have sought to approximate the flavors of the best Brunswick stew I have ever eaten, made with leftover hickory smoked chicken and pulled pork, using ingredients that are more likely to be accessible to non-Southern readers. I have thus opted for a middle ground between the Virginian and Georgian versions of the dish, which seems appropriate considering my maternal family’s ancestral origins in — yep, you guessed it! — Brunswick County, North Carolina.

ingredients

1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, skin removed
1 pound meaty smoked ham hocks or smoked ham
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 quart water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
1 medium-sized green bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 pounds fresh or frozen lima (or young butter) beans
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon or more ground chipotle (or other smoked, hot chili pepper)
1 pound fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels (the “Silver Queen” variety is particularly good here)
1 tablespoon hickory-flavored barbeque sauce (yes, I’m serious)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

preparation

  1. In a large stock pot, simmer the chicken, ham, chicken broth, and water for approximately one hour or until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Remove the chicken and ham from the broth and, when sufficiently cool to handle, shred the meat. Skim excess fat, if any, from the broth and return the meat and skimmed broth to the pot.
  2. In a frying pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and bell peppers in the olive oil until the onions are golden. Add the onion mixture, tomatoes, lima beans, crushed red pepper, and ground chipotle to the meat and broth in the stock pot. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the lima beans are tender.
  3. Add the corn, barbeque sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning, if needed. Serves 8 or more as a main course stew.

Readers might enjoy this old recipe for Brunswick Stew, by Virginia S. Woodroof, posted at Welcome to Brunswick County, Virginia:

First catch your chicken, clean and cut them.
And in an iron pot you put them;
And water nearly to the top
And in it salt and pepper drop;
Boil slowly. Your tomatoes peel;
Put in a shin or so of veal;
And for the flavor, bear in mind,
A chunk of middling with the rind.
Next some onions you throw in,
The young and tender skin,
And butter beans do not forget;
And what is more important yet;
The corn, but do not be too fast,
For you must cut and add it last;
For better than the flour you’ll find it’ll do
To give some thickness to the stew.
Some lemon peel cut very thin
May now be added and stirred in,
And ere it is taken from the fire
Give it a dash of Worcestershire,
And soon you will hear its praises ring,
This is a dish fit for a king.

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{ 9 Comments...read them below or add one }

Suzanne September 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm

We are HUGE stew fans, particularly in the fall and winter. The smoked meats are a great addition and would be favored among the men I hang with, for sure! Your Brunswick Stew will be making an appearance on our table once we get home. I feel the comfort already!

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Nutmeg Nanny March 9, 2010 at 3:55 pm

This stew looks amazing! It has such bright colors and delicious vegetables. It’s perfect for this warmer, but still chilly, time of the year…yum!

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Barbara March 4, 2010 at 7:19 am

Many thanks y’all, aka Winnie, Jennifer, Peggy, Amanda, Megan, and Kristi. Brunswick stew is good any which way; however, I must say I struggled to think of ways to incorporate the smokey flavor I love for the dish that would be accessible to non-Southerners.

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Winnie March 4, 2010 at 6:44 am

What a gorgeous stew! Thanks for sharing…

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Jennifer S. March 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm

This looks wonderful!

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Almost Slowfood March 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Wow, your Brunswick Stew looks so fresh and bright! What a great way to liven things up over the winter.

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Amanda March 2, 2010 at 8:20 am

LOVE that old recipe, how fun! This looks delicious.

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Megan March 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm

This dish looks so delicious and hearty. How interesting that there is bbq sauce in this! I also love that there’s a bit of kick with the crushed red pepper and chipotle powder. I’m from Northern KY so I don’t know if that’s really considered southern or not but my Mom raised me well on southern comfort foods.

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Kristi Rimkus March 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

What a heart warming dish. So colorful. It looks delicious!

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