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The Stew (recipe: Slow-cooker Brunswick Stew)

September 23, 2011
by Jackie Garvin
cornbread, stew, sliders 014

The history of Brunswick Stew varies depending on who’s telling the story.   Many locales with Brunswick in the name, have laid claim to being the originator of this time-tested recipe.   Some accounts claim the stew started out containing only squirrel and no vegetables.  Others will lead you to believe a  hunting camp stew master, well provisioned with tomatoes, potatoes, onion, corn and beans, cleverly hunted squirrel to add to the pot.   Brunswick County, VA feels so strongly the origin of Brunswick Stew belongs to their citizens, they have included  a stew festival in their economic development plans.  For what it’s worth, Virginia’s  General Assembly passed a resolution proclaiming Brunswick County, VA as the official home of Brunswick Stew stating it was created there  in 1828.    However, Colonial Williamsburg historians state that Brunswick Stew was a popular dish among their 18th century residents and travelers which would have been the period between 1700 and 1799.     We’ve been eating Brunswick Stew a long time.  There’s no getting around that!

Brunswick Stew remains a favorite throughout the South.  You can find at family reunions, political rallies, barbecue houses, church dinners and in my kitchen.    Commonly accepted ingredients include both pork and chicken, corn, tomatoes, butterbeans (the tiny green lima variety) cooked in a tomatoey broth.  A Syrup and Biscuits reader commented that she remembers Brunswick Stew from her childhood as being

That subtle melange of chicken and do I dare say, a whole hog’s head, simmered in a rich tomatoey broth for hours, then corn and butter beans added.

I’m fresh out of hog’s head, but I do have chicken, pork, corn, butterbeans and a tomatoey broth.   I also add okra and potatoes to my version.

I created a slow-cooker version to make use of leftover chicken and pork.  The stew can be assembled the night before,  leaving out the stock and BBQ sauce,  and stored in the refrigerator.  The next morning, fire up the slow-cooker and  add the liquids.      In a few hours,  the aroma will have you starving slap to death.

A  traditional, long cooking version is coming up soon.   I’ll make it over the holidays when we have lots of house guests.   The batch makes up about forty ‘leven gallons.

This dish follows the make good with what you’ve got  principle.  I’m happy and Granny’s proud.

Y’all come see us!

*******

Slow-cooker Brunswick Stew

I used leftover roasted chicken and pulled pork.   Chicken stock, corn, butterbeans and okra were in the freezer.  Canned tomatoes were in the pantry.   Potatoes and onions are a kitchen staple.  BBQ  sauce was from slow-cooker  pulled pork.   I didn’t have to show my face in the grocery to get one item for this stew.

If you don’t have homemade stock or BBQ sauce, commercial preparations work just fine.   Fresh vegetables can be used instead of  frozen.  We are between growing seasons so fresh isn’t readily available.   I did find fresh okra in the grocery store but I didn’t like the way any of it looked.

2 cups butterbeans (I used tiny green limas)

2 cups corn ( I used Silver Queen)

1 pound okra, sliced

2 cups potatoes, diced (I used Yukon Gold)

1 sweet onion, diced (Vidalia, of course!)

2 (1 pound )cans of diced tomatoes.    (Note:   I think the cans are actually 14.5 ounces.  The sizes are shrinking)

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped

2 cups cooked pork, shredded or chopped

1 tablespoon seasoned salt, (I used Season-all)

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup BBQ sauce

Start layering the vegetables.   In go corn, butterbeans, okra……

…….potatoes, onions……..

……and tomatoes with their juice.

Throw in chicken, pork and seasoned salt.   Pour BBQ sauce and stock over all.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low 8 hours or until the vegetables are tender.

Stir and serve over cornbread.

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36 Comments leave one →
  1. Christy permalink
    September 23, 2011 9:59 am

    That’s cute….”I’m fresh out of hog’s head”

  2. Mary permalink
    September 23, 2011 11:07 am

    Boy Oh Boy – does this look goooood!!! I can almost smell it cookin, but when I throw it in the crockpot this weekend I’ll really smell it cookin! A favorite of my husband, so he will enjoy it with a big slice of cornbread! Thanks Jackie!

  3. Jolene permalink
    September 23, 2011 11:17 am

    What size can of tomatoes did you use? This stew looks delicious!

    • September 23, 2011 11:54 am

      Jolene,

      I left the tomatoes off the ingredients list! Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I went back and corrected it used 2 (1 pound ) cans of tomatoes. The one pound cans are actually 14.5 ounces now. I still call them one pound. :)

  4. September 23, 2011 11:50 am

    I love Brunswick Stew! I’m in serious danger of licking my computer screen. Think I’ll just make a pot instead. Thanks for the reminder and the recipe.

    • September 23, 2011 11:57 am

      Beverly,

      It is such a great dish to have in your recipe index. Everybody’s going to have leftover chicken and pork at some point. This recipe uses them in a way that a little different. We love it! :)

  5. Julie permalink
    September 23, 2011 12:56 pm

    Love Brunswick Stew, but have never tried making it. This sounds so good I may make it for the Bama game tomorrow!

    • September 23, 2011 1:47 pm

      Julie,

      Brunswick Stew and the Crimson Tide are a perfect match. Don’t forget the cornbread! :)

  6. September 23, 2011 1:02 pm

    Brunswick Stew is one of my favorite foods. There are two competing recipes floating around my family, but neither uses pork. I think the addition will make the broth even richer! Good call. Also, I’m with you on the okra lately– I haven’t liked the look of any I’ve seen. I so wish the summer vegetable season was longer. Happy weekending!

    • September 23, 2011 1:44 pm

      Louise,

      I think adding pork instead of just chicken to Brunswick Stew really sets it apart from Chicken Vegetable Soup or stew. When I do my long-cooking version, I’ll stew a whole chicken and a cubed pork roast for several hours before adding the vegetables. I’m looking forward to cooking it and sharing the recipe but I have to wait until I have lots of folks to feed.

      Speaking of okra, have tried Roasted Okra? Girl, I’m obsessed with it now. I use frozen okra and it works just fine. I thaw and drain it before cooking. Here’s my recipe: http://wp.me/P1lazE-R8 :)

  7. Jean permalink
    September 23, 2011 2:35 pm

    Are you having stew tonite and can I come to your house for dinner? I love Brunswick stew….loaded with butter beans and all those good things. I have heard of folks putting squirrel in it too but since I rarely eat squirrel I think mine would only have chicken.You can call me and tell me what time is supper.

    • September 23, 2011 5:20 pm

      Jean,

      We’re not having Brunswick Stew tonight. I made it a couple of weeks ago and I’m just now getting the posting finished and ready for publishing. Otherwise, I’d be happy to have for supper! :)

  8. jane kelly permalink
    September 23, 2011 7:54 pm

    omit potatos if you plan to freeze.Add mashed potatos when reheating

    • September 23, 2011 8:09 pm

      Jane,

      Have you had bad experiences with freezing potatoes? I freeze them in soups frequently. :)

  9. September 25, 2011 7:44 am

    Looks yummy, especially poured over that cornbread! Is this stew similar to the Southern “Burgoo” we used to eat in Kentucky? Seems to me the original recipes called for squirrel, too, but are now made with chicken and pork.
    Keep writing, I’ll keep reading…you always make my stomach growl!
    Chris

    • September 25, 2011 1:10 pm

      Chris,

      I’ve never made Burgoo Stew but I just looked it up. From what I can tell, the two are very similar but Brunswick Stew has more of a tomato-y, BBQ-y broth. Burgoo is regional to Kentucky. I’ve never even seen it on a restaurant menu outside of Kentucky. It looks delicious! :)

  10. September 25, 2011 10:34 am

    I love Brunswick stew – it’s so hardy!

    • September 25, 2011 1:06 pm

      Mary,

      We do, too! I hope you had a great vacation and are well rested. Welcome back! :)

  11. September 26, 2011 8:47 am

    Jackie, I’ve got to tell you I was so excited to read MY post excerpted in yours about The Stew! I jumped up and down, hollered and ran to show it to my husband who was walking on the treadmill at the time. No interest there, but I’m still so very pleased that you found the ‘rememberance’ of my childhood to be worthy. And I will be trying your recipe ASAP, alas, tho without the hog’s head!! Love and thanks for making my day!!

    • September 26, 2011 2:43 pm

      Dear Bearbbit,

      I loved the description of your memory! It was so poetic and I thought it added to the story. Around the holidays, I am going to make a more traditional batch. I won’t use hog’s head but I will stew a whole chicken and a pork roast. I have to wait until I’m having lots of company because the recipe make forty ‘leven gallons. That may be closer to your memory of Brunswick Stew. The slow-cooker version is good, but it’s not as good as the traditional style. Stayed tuned!

      I get what your saying about your husband. Mine doesn’t get excited about “my stuff” either. :)

      I posted this recipe to a group page on FB composed of Southerns. Several of them made quite rude comments about butterbeans being added. “Sounds good but you got to get butterbeans out of it.” “I never heard of adding butterbeans to Brunswick Stew.” “My grandparents are rolling over in their graves.” I very politely commented that traditional Brunswick Stew contained butterbeans. They went off on me again! I decided this group didn’t need me and quickly exited before I brought hog’s heads into the dicussion! :)

  12. September 27, 2011 8:14 am

    You’re right to leave such a group. Some folks, even Southerners, who are steeped in good manners, don’t know when to bow out gracefully. Keep on cooking and writing and those of us who know ‘good folks’ when we see ‘em will be reading, cooking and living life graciously right along with ya!! love and happy times to you and yours….

    • Jackie Garvin permalink
      September 27, 2011 2:42 pm

      Laurabun,

      I prefer not to be around negative people. One negative person can bring down a whole room of happy, positive people. I’m not in anyway suggesting that you don’t help out someone in a time of need and despair. That’s not what I mean at all. I’m referring to people who just look for things to complain about or make negative comments about. That’s my choice.

      I’m so glad you’re here! :)

      • laurabun permalink
        September 28, 2011 3:08 pm

        Oh, I didn’t misunderstand! I agree with you completely! I’m the one who didn’t make myself clear :( Those with negative attitudes should be avoided. One bad apple and all that! :) And I’m usually the first to render aid to someone in need, oftentimes to my own detriment. So, seems like we think alike on a few things. Take care and looking forward to your next post.
        I’m glad you let me take part in your musings….
        Happy days!!!

        • Jackie Garvin permalink
          September 28, 2011 5:09 pm

          Laurabun,

          I’m so happy you’re here to be a part of Syrup and Biscuits! :)

  13. trish duncan permalink
    October 29, 2012 9:28 am

    Already shopped for the week, but so doing this next week… sounds so yummmY!!!!!!

  14. Vicki Harris permalink
    September 13, 2013 2:03 pm

    I’m excited for my freezer to be cleared out so I can make this…without the okra of course….no okra in our house…..LOL

  15. December 31, 2013 2:33 pm

    The good folks in Brunswick GA would disagree. They too believe the stew originated there.

  16. December 31, 2013 7:15 pm

    My husband loved a good Brunswick stew. We never made our own…maybe it’s time I did. Normally neither of us cared for it with butterbeans or pork, but the good thing is that you can make it your own. Love the slow cooker method…your recipe sounds great!

    • January 1, 2014 9:19 am

      Bonnie,

      Brunswick stew is certainly customizable. Butterbeans and pork are original to the recipe but you can overcome that! There’s plenty of other good vegetables: potatoes, tomatoes, okra and onions. You could add in corn. Leave out pork and make it will all chicken. Happy New Year!

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