Nobody really knows where the name “Brunswick stew” came from. Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia all claim to have created it. There’s a Brunswick County in Virginia and a town of Brunswick in Georgia, as well as a town of Braunschweig in Germany. It originally included game – squirrel, possum and rabbit– but today’s recipes usually call for chicken, pork and beef.
Here at Springfield, Brunswick stew has a long history. When our new meetinghouse was built in 1927, about 65% of the funds were donated, and the meeting took out a mortgage to cover the rest. Then the Great Depression hit, incomes plummeted, and the meeting struggled to make the payments.
People at Springfield rallied, and organized an endless series of Brunswick stew dinners which gradually paid off the mortgage by the mid-1940’s. By that time, Brunswick stew had become a part of the life of the meeting, and Brunswick stew dinners continued for many decades.
Brunswick stews at Springfield used to be made out behind the meetinghouse, and sometimes there would be 5 or 7 big pots simmering at a time. Making stew was a social event in itself. One time, the pots and fires were placed on top of some fresh concrete, and the heat of the fire caused water in the concrete to turn into steam and explode!
Everyone who makes Brunswick stew has their own recipe. In the files of the Memorial Association, we turned up a newspaper article from 1954 which gives the recipe used for many years here at Springfield:
Sara R. Haworth’s recipe for Brunswick Stew
Serves 100 people
4 large fat old hens
5 pounds lean pork
6 pounds ground lean beef
2 gallons shoe peg corn
1 gallon butter beans
4 gallons tomatoes
1 ½ pounds bacon
3 quarts carrots
20 large onions
2 gallons chopped Irish potatoes
1 ½ pounds butter
2 quarts chopped green pepper
2 quarts chopped red pepper
3 or 4 pods of hot pepper
Cook the meat and chickens until tender. Cut all vegetables fine. Combine all ingredients except corn and cook slowly for 3 hours in large cast iron kettle, stirring constantly with hickory sticks. Add corn last and cook short time longer.
Add hot or barbecue sauce to taste.