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Joni Woolf: Fall is approaching – bring out the Brunswick Stew

I have mentioned before in this column the attachment that I have to recipes scribbled on the backs of envelopes, and the person or persons they call to mind. So when September’s weather cools into a pleasant October, and the leaves begin to turn, I begin thinking of Brunswick Stew — and I envision the recipe. Of course there are as many recipes — and strongly held opinions — as there are cooks. Some say they favor Virginia recipes, some North or South Carolina, many — of course — Georgia.
Since I boast no expert knowledge of the various types and backgrounds, I can only speak to one specific recipe that I have enjoyed some 40 years, one given to me by a friend named Barbara Richards, who named the stew for her mother, who had passed the recipe down to her. Written on a now-crumbling piece of yellow legal pad, the recipe remains one of my favorites. The directions were written before food processors were in common use, and though that is what I use today when I make it, I’m going to record it as I received it. At that time I had my mother’s old meat grinder that I attached to the kitchen counter and ran most of the ingredients through. Alas, I tried that a couple of years ago, and my arm would no longer respond to the demand to turn; so I pulled out the food processor and found it really does work just as well — though I hated to admit it. Here’s how Mrs. Streetman did it:
“1 – 4 1/2  to 5 pounds chicken
2 pounds pork roast
1 pound ground steak  (ground beef works)
Medium-size bottle of catsup (I use a 32-ounce bottle)
1/2 bottle barbecue sauce (I use one cup of homemade sauce)
2  1-lb. cans tomatoes
4 medium potatoes peeled and cut in chunks
1 large onion, peeled
2 1-lb. cans cream-style corn
Chili powder to taste (I use at least 1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste (I use 2 teaspoons each)
(I add about 20 shakes from the Tabasco bottle)
Cook hen and pork roast until tender. Save broth. Cook and run through meat grinder with potatoes and onion. Put in large container with broth from hen and pork roast. Add crumbled ground steak, tomatoes, catsup, barbecue sauce, and bring to a boil. Add corn and seasonings and bring back to a boil and stir constantly until beef is done. This makes a large quantity and freezes well.”
Actually, it makes over two gallons, and can be kept three or four months in the freezer without losing its flavor. Combined with a juicy barbecue sandwich or a plate of ribs and a heaping serving of cole slaw, this makes a wonderful fall meal, whether you are tail-gating, barbecuing on the deck, or serving dinner indoors on a chilly night. I have taste-tested this recipe against many others, and I like mine better than most. Some people add butter beans or English peas, and some cut their potatoes in larger chunks. This stew is fairly fine in texture — fine enough that when I am 100 years old and have few teeth left, I can still consume it — through a straw! Now that’s a recipe for the ages.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net