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a nice fix

Recipe: brunswick stew

My local hill got five inches of powder last night, so I grabbed my teles and headed out this morning. There’s no more powder, because I skied it all up. Powder feels like silk – except when you biff (and I did one very nice skis-over-head tumbler), but even then it’s a lovely way to wipe out.

dude in front better not track up my freshies

it snowed the whole morning

That was tiring (but fun), pushing powder around. I mean more tiring than usual because I haven’t been able to eat much solid food lately so I’ve been rather low on the blood sugar. My body’s weak after the last cycle’s myriad of side-effects anyway. I’m on the front end of that period when my body is sort of returning to normal and I desperately work out to bring it up to speed before the next dose. Consider it the inflection point of the sinusoid. It’s good to get the tele legs back. More snow in the forecast. More tele.

There’s nothing quite like a steaming hot bowl of soup or stew after skiing. Well, there wasn’t any to be had since I hadn’t made it. Easy enough to fix. Brunswick stew is a local specialty where I grew up. It’s simple to make and all of the ingredients are easy to get your hands on. I find it surprisingly delightful every time I make it because for some reason the recipe looks dull to me. I think it’s the sugar.

the veggies

The recipe I have comes from The Williamsburg Cookbook which lists a lot of traditional recipes, as in from the Colonial Days. Brunswick stew was originally made with squirrel, not chicken. I have never had squirrel before and I have no desire to trap any of the ones twitching in our trees. Organic chicken works for me.


I like to make my stew in two steps. First I boil the chicken in water and when the chicken is ready, I remove the skin and bones and shred the chicken. Then I strain the broth and refrigerate it until the fat has solidified (organic chicken fat is less solid) and remove the fat. That’s the first step.

some tomatoes

Yeah, no fresh tomatoes right now. I like this brand of organic toms. I also substitute zucchini for okra, and I typically like to use baby lima beans instead of standard limas. But my local store didn’t have baby limas, so I had to settle for adults this time around.

into the pot

The second step resumes the recipe by heating the broth and adding the vegetables. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

add the chickie

Then add the meat and spices (salt, pepper, and sugar – I told you it was simple) and the instructions just end there. I like to let it simmer for another 30 minutes at least. What you end up with is a satisfying hearty soup or sort of thin stew. Good and hot.

brunswick stew – desquirrelized

Chowning’s Tavern Brunswick Stew
[print recipe]
The Williamsburg Cookbook

1 stewing hen (6 pounds), or 2 broiler-fryers (3 pounds each)
2 large onions, chopped
2 cups okra, cut (I subbed zucchini)
4 cups fresh or 2 cans (1 pound each) tomatoes
2 cups lima beans
3 medium potatoes, diced
4 cups corn cut from cob or 2 cans (1 pound each) corn
3 tsps salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp sugar

Cut chicken into pieces and simmer in 3 quarts water for thin stew, or 2 quarts for thick stew, until meat can easily be removed from the bones, about 2 1/4 hours. Add raw vegetables to broth and simmer, uncovered, until the beans and potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Add chicken, boned and diced if desired, and the seasonings. The book notes that Brunswick stew benefits from long, slow cooking, and that some people believe the flavor improves if the stew is left overnight and reheated the following day. Makes 8-10 servings.

20 nibbles at “a nice fix”

  1. peabody says:

    Mmm, warm soup after a good day on the slopes. Sounds lovely.

  2. manggy says:

    Haha, aren’t we very “hep” today?! Powder, teles, biff, tumbler, wipeout, dude, track up, freshies, and my personal favorite, “toms!” :) I can see why you would be underwhelmed by the recipe– it looks so short and simple, and has no exotic seasonings– but I guess that’s where the magic of fresh and organic ingredients work! And looks very hearty :)
    Nice to hear you’re recuperating well. I hope that working out does indeed work– I’m a little sick right now and my solution is of course to wallow in bed the whole day, to conserve energy for my immune system :)

  3. Katie says:

    This looks so delicious. Especially on a cold day! Mmm…

  4. amanda says:

    You are quite the snow bunny. You’ve got more energy than me, out running around in the freezing mountains. But good thing you have that wonderful pot of soup to warm you right up. Quick and easy soups should be a staple in everyone’s kitchen, especially during the winter season.

  5. kristin says:

    This is a revelation for me. I moved away from Virginia and across the country when I was pretty young – around 10, and it was quite a big change. One of my favorite foods there was a mysterious stew that came in a yellow can. Neither of my parents are from the South so I don’t think they really knew what it was – I tried it at a friends house and begged my dad to buy it and fix it for me, which he did regularly. Well, my family moved to Washington state and the stew was nowhere to be found. I have looked for it but with no real knowledge of what it was, I never had much hope of stumbling across it. I haven’t been back to Virginia since then and I gave up on finding it a long time ago. Well, today I came across a picture that looked suspiciously like the stew I loved so much. I remember clearly the lima beans and the corn in the stew. Lo and behold, I did a little more digging – and now after over 16 years of dreaming about that soup, I’ve found it. I cannot wait until I make this at home. Thank you, so much.

  6. Abby says:

    Sounds like a good day!

    I like Brunswick Stew, but you never see it around here. You once said you figured your area was influenced by Eastern N.C. in the bbq realm, and I’d say you’re right, bc every Eastern bbq restaurant also serves Brunswick Stew!

    And yummmm … limas. Love ’em with some butter.

  7. cindy says:

    Glad to hear you were out in the powder. It’s got to be good for whatever ails you. We received a big dump of snow over the weekend, but by the time we got there yesterday, it was a little heavy. Great stuff, but not the champagne powder one dreams of.

    And glad to hear you’re stewing with chicken. I have a volume of The Joy of Cooking that is so old it includes instructions for skinning and preparing squirrel and other game—even bear, for which it recommends your standard pot roast recipe. Makes me want to eat a bunch of vegetables.

  8. Kevin says:

    Tasty looking chicken soup!

  9. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Jen- Come see me. I have a surprise for you.

  10. Tartelette says:

    Hopefully I won’t make as many typos in this comment as I did in the last one…dang! Somebody, hit me on the head!!
    I hope you get to feel 100% better soon. The stew does sound and looks delicious!

  11. Chuck says:

    I’m jealous of your fresh powder. I was in Whistler last week with no fresh at all, but I can’t complain too much about boarding in Whistler. The desquirrelized stew looks good. And thanks for tagging me, now I have to figure out what to share and who to tag.

  12. Maja says:

    Hi, Jen,
    isn’t it amazing how sometimes the most simple recipes taste so great? :) Like no-knead bread and spinach soup. :) I never saw lima beans here where i live, beans come in shades of brown and white. Then there are snap beans. So i will try your soup, i guess if you can have chicken instead of squirrel, you can also change the type of beans … i know the colors won’t be the same and the easthetic appeal will be seriously compromised, but still, one’s gotta have hope. :)
    I loved the photo from the ski-lift, oooh, i’m so buying those skies! I wish you a fast recovery,

  13. Joanne says:

    Wow, this looks a lot like my grandmother’s minestrone (sans chicken or squirell), which just made me incredibly homesick for her cooking. I hated it as a kid, but now I would give just about anything for a big hearty bowl of it. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane and kudos on the wonderful photos.

  14. Woolly says:

    I am in search of a killer chicken soup. I have tried a bunch but still not happy. I thought I would ask for your help! so please HELP.
    I am getting frustrated, they smell so great when i am cooking them. then I taste it and meh, not so good!
    and the terrible thing is it should be so easy to make.

  15. rebekka says:

    I absolutely LOVE the name of your blog.

  16. Shell says:

    Oh that looks so good. The slopes looked good too – now if I only knew how to ski. Ah well someday!
    Your blog is great to read!

  17. jenyu says:

    Peabody – absolutely!

    Mark – dude, you don’t ski, do you? ;) I think you’re right about the recipe, it looks like nothing special, but winds up being incredibly satisfying. It’s a tough balance to strike – when to ramp up the work outs versus when the body needs more rest. I think I’m starting to gauge it fairly accurately though. Oooh, I’m sorry you’re sick, dear. I hope you get better soon. xxoo

    Katie – most definitely on a cold day :)

    Amanda – I need to remember that, to always have soup components on hand in winter!

    Kristin – I’m so glad that you finally found Brunswick Stew after all these years!!

    Abby – wow! I guess I’m not too surprised since a good portion of the South claims to be the home of Brunswick Stew ;) I’m just glad they’ve all got it because it’s soooo good!

    Cindy – girlfriend, you need to come out here for the serious pow. I love the Sierra, but it’s called Sierra concrete for a reason ;) Oh darn, none of my books have instructions on how to cook bear. Gah! ha ha ha.

    Kevin – thanks hon!

    Susan – oh, you sneaky girl! Thanks for the award :) Now I have to think about whom to pass it along too!

    Tartelette – thank you. Your words always make me feel better!

    Chuck – oooh, Whistler. That’s a nice place to ride! Let me know if you’re ever in my neck of the woods. I’ll take you to some good mountains!

    Maja – I’m sure you could substitute a pea or bean for the limas. Anything that gets somewhat mooshy :) I do love the flavor of limas though. Hopefully one day you can get your hands on some, just for fun if not for anything else!

    Joanne – it’s funny how so many of us hated foods as kids and now we can’t get enough of them as adults? :) Thanks!

    Woolly – Maybe you don’t like chicken soup? The main thing for me is homemade chicken broth. If it isn’t homemade, you’re already a few points down. If you want something with a kick, try green chile stew (with chicken). I don’t normally post recipes to request, but if you’re good… I may post a recipe for a soup this week before my next chemo (otherwise you’re SOL and you’ll have to wait 10 days after chemo for anything remotely coherent on the blog).

    Rebekka – thanks :)

    Shell – thank you! I hope you give skiing a try, it’s seriously fun stuff ;)

  18. heidi says:

    I love love love the name of your blog…it’s very orginal :) hehe

  19. jenyu says:

    Heidi – thank you!

  20. Mariann says:

    The reason you stew was thin is because you did not use okra. The okra thickens the stew. Brunswick Stew is also best if made several days ahead or made ahead, frozen and then thawed out later after the flavors have blended.

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