Brunswick stew was a favorite dish for my Daddy to cook. He would save up squirrels in the freezer and when he had enough, he’d call his buddies and their families over for a “stew cookin’,”an all-day outdoor event in the Fall involving a propane burner, a huge black iron pot and a wooden paddle for stirring.
Brunswick stew is great for using up any leftover meats and vegetables too. You can add in lean beef, bacon, venison, duck and ham to the mix. Leftover frozen pulled pork is also very good in Brunswick stew. You can add in bell peppers, celery, okra, creamed corn, green beans, English peas, mushrooms, ketchup, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce if you like. Brunswick stew is very forgiving and very adaptable. Add in only what you like.
I still think my Daddy’s recipe is the best and was best enjoyed sitting outside on a cool Fall evening along with friends and family. I remember mechanic lights with silver backs clamped to the tree limbs with orange extension cords snaking along the ground; a fire going; drinking canned drinks from the coolers; eating Mama’s cornbread while balancing a bowl of stew on my lap; listening to funny stories; running into the house to find more bowls, coffee mugs, butter bowls or Tupperware and spoons for the folks who just pulled up late wanting to eat. My mother always liked to have matching dishes and flatware for guests, but by the time everyone was assembled in the backyard, she just had to go with the flow and we had to start digging out whatever stew eatin’ vessels we could find hiding in the back of the cabinets. The guests never complained, even if they were using a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug with a long sterling silver teaspoon to eat Daddy’s stew.
The base recipe Daddy always made had at least onions, frozen corn, frozen tomatoes, frozen butterbeans and potatoes. The frozen vegetables having been grown in our garden during the summer, and the potatoes that had been dug up and stored in the root cellar. Sometimes he would add a few store-bought cans of this or that if needed.
The recipe can be scaled up or down, it can be made more meaty or more vegetable-based, but the end result should be thick enough to hold a spoon upright. You can also use four chickens if you happen to be out of squirrel.
6 squirrels (6 cups meat)
2 chickens (6 cups meat)
2-4 cans Lima or butterbeans or 1 frozen quart bag
2-4 can whole kernel corn or 1 frozen quart bag
2 -4 cans stewed tomatoes or 1 frozen quart bag (5 minutes before adding to the pot, add 1 teaspoon
baking soda to the tomatoes so they won’t curdle)
2 cans tomato paste
2-4 chopped onions
3-5 pounds peeled, cubed potatoes
Boil squirrels and chicken in salted water until tender. Remove chicken, and debone. Continue boiling squirrels until tender as they will take longer than the chickens. Remove squirrels and debone. If using beef, cube and put into the pot, if using bacon, fry it first, drain and add it to the pot. If using ham, cube it and add to the pot. Add in any cubed duck or venison or leftover frozen meats to the pot. Cook until tender.
Add in vegetables and cook slowly until the potatoes are done. You may need to add to take away some of the liquid. You only want the liquid to barely cover the vegetables. Add in the squirrel, chicken, tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Cook on a simmer until the stew is thick enough to hold a spoon upright. Stir it often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot and add in a little water if needed. Taste the stew often and add in spices of your choice. Salt, pepper, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, lemon juice and/or hot sauce. This cooking down process can take from 2-4 hours. It makes a lot, and it is even better the next day and freezes well.