Stick a Spoon In It

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.

Go figure. In past months, we Daring Cooks have made dishes originating from China (potstickers), Viet Nam (pho), Italy (risotto and gnocchi), India (dosas), the Middle East (mezze), and Thailand (satay). Although the cooking of these things may have been unfamiliar to me, the dishes themselves were not; I had eaten (and love) all of this fare from far-flung lands, thanks to the wonderfully diverse and food-centric part of California I call home. This month, however, when we were charged with preparing traditional American eats — the Southern classic Brunswick Stew — I was caught without a clue.

I learned a few things about this Brunswick Stew. For example:

  • Its origin is variously credited to Brunswick County, North Carolina; Brunswick County, Virginia; or Brunswick, Georgia.
  • It is typically made with a combination of meats, which may include chicken, pork, rabbit, and squirrel. Since my freezer is full of a variety of non-rodent meats, I opted for a pork and chicken interpretation.
  • It has a variety of vegetables (corn, tomatoes, onions), and almost always includes lima beans or butterbeans. Are these the same thing? Some sources say they are, while some say that the butterbean is the fava bean, which I know to be quite distinct from the lima. At any rate, since I didn’t find fava beans on shopping day, I substituted edamame  instead of going with lima beans. I was willing to relinquish a few authenticity points because I just could not rationalize spending good money on a bean that I have tried many times to like but just cannot seem to forge a relationship with.
  • It might be served with cornbread. I found a crusty sourdough to be a worthy, if again inauthentic, accompaniment.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I found out that a true Brunswick Stew must be so thick that a spoon stands up straight in it. By that measure, I guess I pass.

If you’re in the mood for more Brunswick Stew spoon tricks, you’ll find them today, courtesy of hundreds of other Daring Cooks.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Oh, my…. I had never heard of this stew, and I though I knew “everything” about cooking…

    squirrel meat – I’ll search my freezer, but I might have to launch the dogs on a mission in our backyard. :-)

    Loved the spoon trick….

  2. Dave Schaefer says

    Yep, grew up with it, even in Cincinnati! Now try the Kentucky variation called; Burgoo. Just as delectable! White meal cornbread is the accompaniment just right for these dishes. A little hot sauce on the side won’t hurt either.

    I hope you enjoy it. It’s an American Classic!

    Dave Schaefer
    Blue Ribbon BBQ
    Boston, MA

  3. Sharon T says

    I’ve eaten Brunswick stew in Georgia (a few years ago at a dog show) and it looked pretty much like your photo.

  4. mlaiuppa says

    I have never heard of this.

    I think I have all of the ingredients except for the lima beans. I hate lima beans. But I’ll bet I could substitute black eyed peas.

    I’m thinking I might substitute lamb for the pork because I have other plans for the pork in my freezer. And I have no bacon so I’ll be using olive oil.

    I’ll also skip the peppers as I can’t tolerate too much spice. The tabasco will be enough.

    Like all good stews, soups and other ethnic and regional recipes, it looks like it lends itself well to substitutions.

    Looks like it’s great for the crock pot.

  5. says

    Lima beans and butter beans are two different varieties of the same legume species, Phaseolus lunatus. Sometimes, the smaller butter beans are sometimes called “baby lima beans.”

    The lima bean was first cultivated in South America, in the Andes. The butter bean, or “Sieva type” of P. lunatus, was cultivated at lower elevations. Their cultivation had spread to North America long before the European “discovery” of the New World, and they were exported to Europe along with potatoes and corn by the early European explorers.

    Now, I never would have known any of this if you hadn’t tickled my curiosity, Susan.

    Anyway, I had Brunswick Stew once in Atlanta – at Pittypat’s Porch, if memory serves. I believe it did have rabbit, but no other rodents. I thought it was pretty bland. (I was living in New Mexico at the time and more accustomed to chile verde and posole kinds of stews that would really “light your fire.”)

    David

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