The signs are popping up on roadsides, near volunteer fire departments and on church lawns. Fall fundraisers – and by fundraisers we mean food sales – are blossoming, even as everything else fades.
If you do your homework and plan judiciously, you won’t have to cook Saturday dinner until November.
Fried fish, chicken and barbecue, and even some braised pork butts are the favorites around here. But what I really miss is that old Virginia fall fundraising favorite, Brunswick stew. My father, after his jaunts around Richmond running Saturday errands would frequently bring back a giant container of the stuff. It truly was a late harvest stew, loaded with butter beans, corn and tomatoes. Since it already was chock-a-block with vegetables my mother would whip up some Jiffy corn muffins, which we crumbled on top, and dinner was complete.
Brunswick stew, accompanied by the drone of televised college football games, was the taste of fall for me.
I know there’s always been a heated debate on whether the stuff was named for an area in Georgia or in Virginia. Really, with an abundance of farms, and plenty of squirrels and rabbits, either rural area could have come up with the concoction separately. I’ve tried Brunswick stew featuring both of these unfortunate creatures, and I have to say, I stick with domestic meat for my version. Stewed game is still, um, gamey.
So, since I rarely can find the real stuff, (the canned version is, at best, a kissing cousin) and the days are getting crisper and shorter, I guess I’ll just have to whip up a batch. And since butter beans are even scarcer than Brunswick stew around here, frozen lima beans will have to do.
Like most stews, the Brunswick version takes little preparation before you dump the ingredients in a pot and let the flavors meld at a simmer. It’s perfect for crock pots and open to a wide array of interpretations. In addition to the trifecta of lima beans, corn and tomatoes, along with chicken, I’ve seen cooks add Italian sausage slices, okra, leftover turkey or baked ham, chipolte peppers, green olives and tasso ham.
Brunswick stew freezes really well, too. So, if you can’t wait until your favorite team plays Saturday to dig into a bowl of it, you can simply put some on ice for the big game.
This recipe uses barbeque pork in addition to chicken. You can order a tray from your favorite barbeque joint, or use the premade item from the grocery store.Don’t add the salty ingredients (except the bacon) until the very end or your lima beans will get tough.
Feeds six to eight
6 pieces of bacon, diced
4 boneless chicken thighs, skin removed, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 10-oz backage frozen baby lima beans
2 cups of shredded pork barbeque
2 bay leaves
4 cups water
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
salt to taste
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. your favorite hot sauce
In a large stew pot (one that has a lid), over medium heat, brown the bacon and remove it, leaving the grease behind. Saute the chicken pieces in the bacon grease, stirring often, about five minutes, then add onion and garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Return the bacon to the pan and add as much fresh ground pepper as you want. Add chicken broth, tomatoes along with their juice, lima beans, pork and bay leaves. Pour in enough water to cover the ingredients. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the stew to boiling. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes. Add the corn and cook another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves. Stir in the salt, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.
A sliced apple, with slices of sharp cheddar makes an excellent side dish.