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Brunswick Stew Recipe from Brunswick Co, Virginia

November 7th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I live in Brunswick county, Virginia.  Brunswick is a small sparsely populated county in south central Virginia.  Brunswick doesn’t have very many claims to fame but it’s Brunswick stew is famous.  During the fall and winter here, the fire departments cook stew.  They do it as a fundraiser and they sell the stew by the quart.  These stews are cooked in huge cookpots and the best are cooked over wood fires.  Cooking the stew is as much a social event as the eating of it.

History of Brunswick Stew

According to the Brunswick Stewmaster’s website,

It all started back in 1828 on the banks of the Nottoway River during a hunting party. Dr. Creed Haskins, a member of the House of Delegates from 1839 through 1841, took a group of his friends on a hunting expedition.  While they were on the hunt, camp cook Jimmy Matthews stirred together the first impromptu mixture that has become known as Brunswick Stew. The original thick soup was made from squirrels, onions, and stale bread. When the hunters returned, there was reluctance to try the new mixture. However, the reluctance turned to demands for second and third helpings of the warm, thick stew.

There are many claims that Brunswick stew was first created in Brunswick Co, NC or Brunswick, GA but the Virginia claim is the best documented.  Wherever it was first cooked and eaten it is delicious and a staple here in Brunswick Co, VA.  Over the years, chicken has replaced the squirrel and rabbit that it was cooked with in the past.

The following is a recipe that you can cook at home:

Brunswick Stew Recipe

  • 2 chickens (about 3 pounds each), cut into 6 or 8 pieces
  • 4 oz of fat back, chopped
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans, drained, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 3 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen lima beans
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste

Place the chickens and fatback in a large pot.  Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is falling off the bones and the broth is well flavored, 2-3 hours. Spoon out and  transfer the chicken to a bowl and cool.

Add the tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, and  lima beans. Season with the salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pull the chicken off the bones. Add the chicken back and taste the stew for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, or sugar as desired. Cook until very thick.  Serve hot in warmed bowls.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jen // Dec 30, 2009 at 4:40 am

    I’ve been wanting to try this recipe – thank you! I do have one question though (just to be absolutely sure). The 2 cans that are seeded and chopped are the tomatoes, right? Just checking :o)

  • 2 Cindy // Dec 30, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Jen, yes, they are tomatoes. I corrected the recipe. :)

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