Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giving Thanks...for 18th century Brunswick Stew

Brunswick Stew
So, I am setting aside the diverse swirling claims for the origin of this Southern culinary classic comfort food, be it place or date of origin, and sharing the recipe with which I grew up. This particular recipe comes from the Chowning's Tavern Cookbook of Colonial Williamsburg.

 For those of you who may not know, Williamsburg was the political, educational, and cultural center of Virginia from 1699 to 1780. It is home to the College of William and Mary which received its charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England on February 8, 1693. Second in age only to Harvard, William and Mary educated many of America's Founding Fathers including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and is still a vibrant and revered college to this day. Check out William and Mary at:

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
To prevent the deterioration of one of America's historical gems, two men joined forces in the 1920's to preserve, restore and, when necessary, accurately replicate the buildings of Colonial Williamsburg. The two men were the rector of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church, the Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin, and wealthy philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Today you can stroll the streets of the town, eat in its taverns, and enjoy its shops along with costumed reenactors for a real 18th century experience. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg visit:

18th Century American Feast
Now, for that recipe that will be part of my Thanksgiving celebration (which, for our family, stretches from Thursday through Sunday of next week!)  Feel free to alter according to your own taste (the early cooks probably included squirrel.) Serve it with cornbread (fried or baked) and/or ham biscuits (thin, succulent slices of Virginia or country ham nestled inside warm, buttered biscuits.)

This makes a large pot of stew but it freezes well and actually improves in rich flavor when prepared ahead of time and slowly re-heated.

Brunswick Stew from the Chowning's Tavern Cookbook

~~ Ingredients:
• 2 chickens (about 3 pounds each), cut into 6 or 8 pieces 
• 4-5 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 2 (16-ounce) cans, drained, seeded, and chopped 
• 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 
• 3 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 2 large onions, thinly sliced
• 2 cups fresh or frozen lima beans
• 2 cups fresh or frozen sliced okra
• 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 
• 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste 
In a large pot, place the chickens and add enough water to cover, 2-3 quarts. 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. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl and cool.

Skim the broth. Add the tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, lima beans, and okra. 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 to the vegetables and taste the stew for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, or sugar as desired. Serve hot in warmed bowls. ~~

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Photo Credits:
Brunswick Stew--  By Joe Loong ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia--  By Harvey Barrison from Massapequa, NY, USA (Colonial Williamsburg Uploaded by AlbertHerring)  [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (],  via Wikimedia Commons

18th Century American Feast--  By Harvey Barrison from Massapequa, NY, USA  (Colonial Williamsburg  Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC-BY-SA-0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Sarah Johnson said...

That recipe looks very good! It looks like something my husband would go for, too. (I'll stick to it as written and skip the squirrel option :) Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Kathryn Louise Wood said...

I'm with you on the squirrel option, Sarah! And a Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well.