One of my favorite stews to make during the cold days of January is a classic Southern favorite: Brunswick Stew. There's a reason you see it on the menu in most BBQ stops in the Deep South: it's the perfect stew when you have an abundance of leftovers. This is especially true when those leftovers tend to have begun their existence as barbecue. I like to think of it as the Deep South's version of the Maryland She-Crab Soup.
Brunswick Stew has many varieties. Just google the name Brunswick Stew, and you'll find a wide variety of choices with each claiming to be the authentic recipe. Most of the differences depend on the region in the country the person got the recipe from. I grew up in South Alabama and I believe my mom's recipe most likely could be traced back to Georgia (Brunswick is in Georgia, you know; Of course, it's also in South Carolina). It was definitely spicy with the main vegetable source being corn niblets and creamed corn. I absolutely loved this recipe mainly for the spiciness that came from the Heinz Chili Sauce and Pick-a-Peppa.
The other variety that I've commonly found is good as well but is loaded with a lot more vegetables, the biggest difference being the addition of okra and potatoes. Since I have an unusual love for okra and do not get the occasion to eat it often, I am also a big fan of this style of Brunswick Stew. This variety reminds me more of a vegetable stew with a barbecue twist than actual Brunswick Stew.
All forms of Brunswick Stew have several things in common. The first is, of course, the barbecue. Brunswick Stew is made from leftover barbecue, a mix of shredded chicken and shredded pork. I have even been known to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving to make the stew. Waste not, want not. The soup is typically very thick, a definite stew versus a soup. The base is a tomato-base, red and thick. Corn and lima beans (or butter beans) are always added to the mix. What you do from there is where the varieties and disputes arise. Do you eat yours with okra and potatoes? Is it more of a vegetable stew or a make-your-head-sweat meal that will warm you from the inside out on a cold day?
I actually like the combination of both styles of recipes. I enjoy a vinegar-based barbecue but also like the thick flavors commonly found in Kansas City-style barbecue. In this recipe, I used one type for the pork and one type for the chicken. That way all of the flavors come through and you get the best of both worlds. And, call me crazy, but my favorite part of Brunswick Stew are the vegetables versus the barbecued meats. In my recipe, I leave out the potatoes but add in all of the other favorites: okra, beans, corn, and onions. Don't tell anyone, but I couldn't find lima beans when I was shopping at Trader Joe's. So, I substituted edamame beans in this go around. Yes! I bet my Southern ancestors are screaming from the great beyond, "Eda- what??". Hey...it worked in a pinch.
For this recipe, I did go about it the long way. It is totally unnecessary, but when I have a long day ahead of me and I'm not going anywhere, I kind of like tending to the stew all day. I used a whole chicken, cut up, and placed it in a slow cooker atop a sliced onion. I covered it with barbecue sauce and cooked on high for 4 hours. I did the same with a pork loin roast in another slow cooker. (Yes, I have two; I got a new one and kept the old and smaller one for occasions like this). After four hours on high, the meat just falls apart for both. Take two forks and shred the meat. Then, stuff your face with a piece here and then a piece there. You're just sampling. No harm done. Whatever you have left over after "tasting the product", throw it into a large stock pot. With the meat and cooked onions, add the broth and water, fresh corn, limas, okra, and tomato sauce. Simmer for one hour. Serve with saltine crackers or some cornbread.
My shortcut is an easy alternative when you don't have the time or want to put it in the slow cooker and have it ready to be served for dinner without all of the in-between prep. Instead of the fresh vegetables, buy the frozen. If you have the time for them to thaw, go ahead. If you don't, then no worries. The only vegetable you need to chop are the onions and even those can be found in most stores already chopped for you. Buy already-roasted chicken. You can do a rotisserie and slice it yourself. However, most stores these days sell already roasted chicken in chopped pieces. For the barbecue, brands such as Lawry's sell tubs of ready-made shredded pork with the sauce already in there. There's really no need to add any more than what comes in the tub. Just layer all of your ingredients, minus the bbq sauce, and turn to low for 10 hours. Super easy, super hearty, and super delicious. It makes a lot so don't hesitate to set some aside and freeze for later.
A hearty stew made with vegetables, barbecue meat, and a tomato broth. A Southern classic.
- 3 pounds Whole chicken, cut into pieces
- 3 pounds Pork loin roast
- Barbecue Rub
- 1 bottle Vinegar-based barbecue sauce
- 1 bottle Kansas-City style barbecue sauce
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 ears fresh corn, removed from cob
- 8 ounces okra, sliced
- 12 ounces frozen lima beans
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- 1 can, 28 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
If slow cooking your meat, then follow the directions below. If not, then follow the instructions above for all of your short cuts.
1. In a slow cooker, place your chopped onion on the bottom layer. Place the chicken pieces on top, sprinkle the meat with the BBQ rub, and pour the Kansas City bbq sauce on top. Turn on high and cook for four hours. Repeat the process for the pork, sprinkling the rub on top and using the vinegar-based sauce. When cook time is complete, remove the meat and shred with two forks, removing the skin and bones for the chicken. Save all of the juices and onions for the stew. Set aside.
2. Remove niblets from your ears of corn and place in the bottom of a large stockpot. Add the bag of limas and your sliced okra. Add the meat and all of the juices and cooked onions from the slow cooker.
3. Pour the broth, tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce over the top of the ingredients. Cook at medium until the stew begins to bubble. Cover, turn down to low, and simmer for one hour.
NOTE: Using the shortcuts mentioned above, place all of the ingredients (minus the barbecue sauces) in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 10 hours.
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 9 hour
Total time: 9 hour 30 mins (depending on which cooking process you use)