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Brunswick Stew -- a Southern favorite
Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum located in southeast Virginia. The city was the capital of Colonial Virginia from 1699-1780.
I first discovered Brunswick Stew -- a unique Southern stew -- many years ago when I visited Colonial Williamsburg with a friend. I was living in Norfolk, Va. at the time and she flew down from Michigan to visit me while my husband was deployed. After walking around the historic village, we had lunch at Chowning’s Tavern.
I was intrigued by this stew “made of young fowl and garden vegetables.” This blend of chicken, tomatoes, okra and other vegetables was a tasty delight and a welcome change from heavier beef stews. I wondered how to make it but didn’t have the faintest idea how to go about recreating it.
Shortly after that, my mother-in-law, who lived in Mobile, Alabama, gave me a cookbook of old southern recipes compiled by a local church group. As I thumbed through it, I happened upon a recipe for Brunswick stew. The recipe called for multiple chickens and had measurements and some ingredients I had to adapt to a more modern time. I’ve been making this stew for about 30 years and I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does. It’s the perfect meal for a cold fall or winter day.
I take two days to make this stew but you can do it in just one. I do it over two days so that I can chill the stew and skim extra fat off the top before I rewarm it for dinner. Whether you do this stew in one day or two, you'll first cook the chicken (I use a crock pot) and then assemble the cooked chicken, its broth and the rest of the ingredients in a stockpot to simmer. It's easy and delicious.
- 3-4 pound chicken, washed, patted dry with giblets removed
- 16-oz can whole tomatoes, undrained
- 16-17 oz can lima beans, undrained
- 16-17 oz can corn, undrained
- 1 T butter or margerine
- 1-1/2 T lemon juice
- 3/4 cup chopped celery
- 16-oz package frozen okra
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-3 T chopped onion
- 1/4 cup catsup
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- cornstarch about 2 T, (optional)
- water about 1/4 cup, (optional)
- Put chicken in a crockpot and cook on high in 5 cups salted water until chicken is done, about a two and a half hours. While the chicken cooks, get the other ingredients ready.
- Dump the chicken broth into a 6-quart (minimum) pot. I set a colander over my large stockpot and then pour everything out from the crockpot into the stockpot. The chicken stays in the colander so it can cool and the liquid ends up in the pot.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add it to the broth in the pot. Discard the skin and bones.
- Add all of the other ingredients to the pot except the cornstarch and water.
- Bring everything to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down and let the stew simmer for about 30 minutes.
1. Okra is a natural thickener but I also thicken the stew a bit more. If you decide to do the same, mix about 2 T of cornstarch with 4 T of water to make a thickener. About 30 minutes before you're ready to serve the stew bring it to a boil and then slowly pour some of the cornstarch mixture into the stew, stirring to blend it in. Let simmer a bit longer.
2. I serve Brunswick Stew with corn muffins. This recipe makes a lot but if you needed to stretch it further, you could serve it over cooked rice.
3. This stew freezes well so after my husband and I have had it a couple times, I'll freeze the rest in two-serving portions. On busy nights, all I need to do is pull out a container of frozen Brunswick Stew, reheat it on the stove or in the microwave and dinner is ready in no time.