Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.
I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.
Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.
Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.
Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.
To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.
Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.
Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.
Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.
It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.
A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.
Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.
The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.
- 1 Pound of Smoked Pork Shoulder
- 4 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 1 16oz Bag of Frozen Lima Beans
- 2 32oz Boxes of Chicken Stock
- 1 Sweet Onion, peeled and diced
- 2 14oz Cans of Stewed Tomatoes
- 2 14oz Cans of Creamed Corn
- 3 Medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 Cup of Sweet Barbeque Sauce, or more to taste
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- I start this recipe by saying that everything is to taste. Add more barbeque sauce at the end if you preferer a sweeter more pungent barbeque flavor. As for the chicken stock, I start with one box then add more towards the end of the recipe to get the stock thickness I desire.
- Place a heavy bottom soup pot or a Dutch over over medium heat, and pour in one tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee the onion until caramelized and translucent.
- Place in your chicken thighs, then pour over enough chicken stock to cover the chicken.
- Bring the chicken stock up to a boil, then reduce the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the chicken thighs for 30 minutes.
- After the chicken has cooked, pour in your remaining ingredients. Turn up the heat as long as necessary to bring the stew back up to a simmer. Once at a simmer you can reduce the heat back to medium-low.
- Add as much chicken stock as necessary to get the stew to your desired thickness.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- I cook the stew for at least one hour to allow the potatoes to soften. The longer you allow it to cook the better it gets.
- Serve with sliced white bread or cornbread.
- *For an even easier version, combine all of the ingredients into a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.
If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.