This is a versatile stew (great for chilly days in January!) that can accommodate any veggies you choose; but to differentiate it from other popular whole-meal-in-a-bowl soups such as vegetable stew or chili, I stick with using potatoes, corn, baby lima beans, and diced tomatoes. And chicken of course (adding a hambone for flavoring, if you have one on hand).
Old timers will tell you that Brunswick Stew is a good way to use squirrel meat. I’m a big fan of Brunswick Stew but have never tasted squirrel to my knowledge; I’m thankful my husband is not a hunter. My very Mennonite father wasn’t a hunter either.
However, many Amish men (and some women) are avid hunters, both for sport and to provide for large families. And I’m sure this stew would be just as tasty with squirrel as with chicken. (Don’t some say squirrel tastes like chicken, anyway?)
You can make this in a crock pot or large kettle, adjusting quantities according to the size of your kettle and number of people. It freezes well; the food editors who tested it for my book Whatever Happened to Dinner? claimed it tasted even better after refrigeration and reheating!
It is a well-known dish in our parts of Virginia and popular at the annual Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale where you see very modern Mennonites cooking alongside conservative and Old Order. G. Don Whitmore, feed salesman and treasurer for our congregation, introduced my family to this stew. He would make large quantities for our congregational meeting potlucks or other church events. This recipe (my adaptation) comes from the collection of another Virginia cook, Martha Doughtie Cavanaugh, in Gather Round Our Table: A Southern Family Shares Recipes and Memories from the Doughtie Family and Friends (compiled by Edith Vick Farris, 2005, G & R Publishing).
- 1 4-pound whole chicken or 3 large frozen boneless/skinless breasts
- 1 14-ounce package frozen baby lima beans
- 1 10-ounce package or can of corn
- 1 quart diced tomatoes
- 1 egg, beaten
- 6 white potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
- Lots of pepper (to taste)
- Salt to taste
- Pieces of ham seasoning (cooked ham bone, ham hock)
- Cover chicken with water and cook for one hour (if using chicken breasts, replacing some of the water with chicken stock gives it more flavor).
- If using whole chicken, strain out the fat, then pull out the bones. Dice or shred all meat and return it to the broth.
- If using breasts, the meat will come apart during further cooking and stirring. Do not pour out broth.
- Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer for 2–3 hours, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Or put the stew into a slow cooker and cook for 8–10 hours on low.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate and gently reheat when you’re ready to serve (this tastes better).
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Melodie M. Davis is the author of nine books, most recently, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010). She writes the syndicated column, Another Way, serves as a managing editor for Herald Press, and is also editor of a local family publication, Valley Living. She keeps a blog where she features frequent recipes from her home, family and church life. She is married and the mother of three adult daughters and two grandsons.
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