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Culinary Adventures: Brunswick stew a good way to warm up on a cold day

Nicole Bowman-Layton

The winter weather usually means one thing at my house: It’s time to break out the crockpot and make soup.

My husband has perfected a simple soup. It basically consists of dumping all the canned vegetables he wants into a pot and covering them with vegetable juice. He’s been hard pressed to find his beloved lima grands — basically big butter beans — in local stores, but he still manages to make some pretty good soup.

Really, anything goes when making soup. You can make things as spicy or as plain as you want. For me, it’s more about having a meal that warms you up and brings you comfort. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of my all-time favorite meals because it’s one of the first things my parents taught me how to make.

When I was a child, my family participated in many church fundraisers that revolved around food. Usually around this time of year, our church family made Brunswick stew in huge kettles over a fire pit or outdoor gas burner. The men of the church usually handled the stirring, while the women spooned the stew into plastic containers and sealed them tight for families to take home.

We often ordered several quarts of the stew, and froze whatever we didn’t eat that day. This soup is great for freezing and storing for the next cold snap.

Brunswick stew is a Southern dish. Several places throughout the region claim they created it, so its origin is mostly unknown. The stew is typically made with barbecue sauce and leftover smoked and roasted meats such as pork, chicken and beef. It usually has corn, lima beans and a few spices to give it just a touch of heat.

While searching the Dispatch’s archive, I found that several organizations, including the Columbus firefighters, held Brunswick stew fundraisers in the past. I’m looking forward to seeing this tradition come back after the pandemic and sampling the local variations of this delicious, comforting dish.

Below is a crockpot recipe for Brunswick stew. You also can put it on the stove over low to medium heat.

Enjoy and have fun on your culinary adventures!

Serves 12

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups shredded or chopped cooked pork (can also include beef and chicken to get the required amount of meat)
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can baked beans
1 (32 fluid ounce) container chicken stock
1 cup frozen corn
1 (15 ounce) can lima beans
1 cup frozen peas
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 (18 ounce) bottle hickory-flavored barbeque sauce

■ Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir onion and celery in hot oil and cook until onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir garlic into the mixture; cook and stir for another 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.
■ Stir onion mixture while adding other ingredients into the slow cooker.
■ Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.

Culinary Adventures: Brunswick stew a good way to warm up on a cold day