This started because I tend to make lots of soups in the winter, and on more than one occasion, the boy said, “you know, if it wasn’t for this, it’d be a brunswick stew. instead of x ingredient, you use corn.” Around the same time, I found the frozen vegetable section of King’s Red and White Market (it’s one of those mom-and-pop groceries. It’s got traditional southern vegetables, mostly local, and has the best meat market in town). There were butterbeans! Shoepeg corn! Mixed vegetables! Okra! Breaded Okra! Collards! Seasoned collards! They came in clear little plastic bags marked with a King’s label, and didn’t feel like they came from a big processing plant (and even if they did, they tasted far too good!).
Btw, if you are looking for a fun time on New Year’s Eve, go to King’s. Everyone and their mother is there stocking up on the beautiful collards, chitlins, ham hocks, black eyed peas, and other stuff for their New Year’s Dinner. And everyone was having fun, too, from the cashiers to the butchers.
A confession: I’ve never made Brunswick stew before. I had no idea what it was supposed to taste, because I’d turned vegetarian then. So I did a little bit of research, found that there’s a bit of debate which mystery meat you are supposed to put in the stew, that potatoes are used to thicken the stew, that folks swear by Worcestershire sauce, some by liquid smoke.
My version is based on a halved, non-meat version of a Lee Bros. recipe, and I do add Worcestershire sauce here, but that’s because I found a nice bottle of Bourbon-aged variety and couldn’t resist using it. I served it with cornmeal crunch from 101 cookbooks, but cornbread or biscuits would work as well.
Brunswick Stew (serves about 4-6)
- Melt butter in a stockpot (the amount of butter you use depends on how big your onions are) under med-high heat. Add the onions, and keep cooking and stirring them until a brown glaze forms on the bottom of the pot and the onions are browned and soft.
- Splash a little bit of broth to cover and scrape the bottom until clean. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, bay leaf and rest of the broth. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are very soft.
- Add tomatoes from the can, squishing them in your hands (no need to chop). Add the tomato-water as well, and then corn, butterbeans, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for another 20-25 minutes. Serve with cornbread and some hot sauce if you like.
If you are missing meat, or have a roast chicken on hand, you could add it to the stew as well.