The Stew that BITES Back!
When my Grandmother was living and I would go to see her, she would always ask me, “What do you want me to make for you?”
Nellie Mae Keith Haskin
(This little woman in her day could kill a chicken, pluck it, cook it, and eat it, with no conscious bothering her whatsoever.
That’s my sweet little grammaw.)
A Quiet Christmas Moment
But when she would ask, I would always answer,
“Brunswick Stew, Cheese Straws, and Angel Food Cake.”
All three are my favorite things that my grandmother could make very well.
I base my Brunswick Stew recipe on hers.
I just add a bit more of everything than she did. The history of Brunswick Stew is a bit complicated as 3 states claim it’s origin. Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. (All 3 states that I have lived.) Each state having a Brunswick County that celebrates the stew every year.
A Southern Tradition
Although I made these for the holidays, cheese straws were a staple when I was growing up at literally every social event. I even had a tin of them to snack on, while sitting on my lap that my grandmother made for me, as Gordon and I were leaving for our honeymoon.
Cheese straws were the only food from home that I took with me. 🙂
AND……. Angel Food Cake
It just wasn’t my grandmother’s kitchen without seeing an Angel Food Cake upside down on a bottle, cooling.
This time it’s MY kitchen!
See Recipe Below:
First up, Brunswick Stew
In This Pot The First Brunswick Stew Was Made On St. Simon Isle July 2, 1898
(Well, if they have the original pot, and a tombstone with a place and a date, then it must be true!)
It is also said that Brunswick Stew was Queen Victoria’s favorite food with the belief that it may have originated from Braunschweig, Germany. Considering the fact that everyone of us in America is descended from immigrants that came over to this country, it does make sense to me that perhaps it may have originated in Europe in one form of another but that it has changed and evolved as time has gone by.
The original stew meat used for this here in America was squirrel, opossum, and rabbit. As the meat from these animals is very tough, the stew would simmer away for many hours so as to tenderize the meat. Which is why traditionally, this stew is very thick.
(I do know people that if they want to thicken something up they add cornstarch, but I would never dream of ever adding anything to thicken this stew or anything else for that matter, except hours of simmering away on the stove top.)
The history of this stew may be up for debate but the unique taste of this stew isn’t.
I call it ‘the stew that bites back.’
Because it does!
Brunswick Stew for Dinner
I also love giving the stew as a gift.
It’s a beautiful burgundy color stew.
One of the only compliments that I ever received from my mother and step-father was that my stew was so good that I should enter it into one of those Brunswick Stew competitions. And as of this writing with visiting family over from Ireland, and down from Georgia, I gave them all the gift of MY Brunswick Stew for Christmas. In frozen form, of course. My brother Ben is awaiting my mother to bring him his when she heads back up home to Georgia.
This is my grandmother’s recipe as written in Recipes to Remember From First Christian Church, Rome, Georgia.
As she wrote it….
1 Small Hen
2 lb. Boneless Stew Meat
1 lb. Onions
3 lb. Potatoes
2 Cans Tomatoes
2 Cans Cream Style Corn
1 Can English Peas
1 Can Lima Beans
1 1/2 Bottles of Ketchup
1 Bottle Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Cup Vinegar
3/4 Cup Lemon Juice
4 t. Tabasco Sauce
2 T. salt
Cook the hen and stew meat until well done or meat leaves the bone. Grind and set meat aside. Put onions and potatoes through food grinder and add to the broth. Cook until well done. Add meat and other ingredients. Cook on low heat until well done and thick, about 2 to 3 hours. Serve hot or cool; pour into containers and freeze. Makes 5 to 6 quarts.
Julie’s Brunswick Stew Recipe
Making this stew is literally a labor of love for me.
I start at sunrise, and finish at sunset when I make it. I always either double, or triple the batch so that I can make enough to eat, give away, and freeze.
Traditionally we eat this stew every 4th. of July along with our BBQ Sandwiches.
Note: Whenever I write out a recipe that means a lot to me, or has many steps, this is how I do it. You may not like it as it is not a long list of ingredients followed by a short paragraph of how to cook it, but this is my way. So, my stew, my way. 🙂
Two Whole Chickens
I start out by boiling two chickens on the stove top in large pots. These two pots will eventually become 3 or 4. As I add more and more ingredients I need more pots. 🙂
Fill the water level a little above have way full, then add the chicken. You are not only boiling this chicken, but you are also making the broth that will be the base for this stew.
Bring the water to a simmering boil and cook the chicken until the meat is falling off the bones.
You can also see the broth being created.
When done remove the chickens from both pots and place them into a colander over a bowl, so the chickens can drain and they also need to cool a little bit. Keep the chickens separate. They will go into different pots and you want the stews to have equal ingredients.
You want the chickens to cool a bit as you will need to remove all the meat from the bones and cartilage, and it can be very hot!
My Chicken Broth
(Notice the “rings” around the pot above the broth? I’ll get to that in a minute.)
I like to use a sieve to remove any of the “scum” that floats around on top of the broth. But I don’t want a perfectly clear broth. I don’t want something perfect that I buy at the grocery store. This is a homemade broth and I prefer it to be a bit rustic. If you know what I mean?
Remember when I pointed out the rings around the pots above? Well, I don’t like that settled “scum” so I pour the broth into another container, then I wash the pots perfectly clean, then I pour the broth back in.
Now we are ready to start building our stew.
The Chickens are Cooling, The Broth is Ready
I remove the meat off of the chicken, one at a time. I like having a bowl to place the meat into, and another bowl to place what I am discarding.
Once I have removed the meat I then grind it up in my food processor. I realize it’s ancient, I bought it in Hawaii for $12.00 in the late 80’s. It still works!
The meat of one chicken, goes into one pot. Then when I grind the meat for the other chicken, it goes into the other pot.
Although it was difficult to photograph this broth holds the meat of one chicken.
Although you see 3 pots in the photo, my stew hasn’t spilled over into that pot yet.
Right now I am still just using 2 pots.
Next Come the Potatoes and the Onions
I used about 10 large Idaho Potatoes here.
First I wash them off and then use a potato peeler to remove all the skin.
Next I stab them a few times before I place them into a large pot to boil.
The Potatoes Ready to Boil
At this point we have stew in 2 pots, potatoes boiling in 1 pot, and an empty pot awaiting instructions from me. 🙂
Cook the Potatoes Until you can Place a Fork in Them with Ease
When the potatoes have finished cooking, remove and let cool a bit, before cutting them into small chunks and dividing them into the 2 pots that house the chicken and the broth.
Now for the Onions
I ended up using about 5 large onions here. Although you see 6 in the photo, I only used 5.
You can use any onions that you like. But in this stew I prefer the yellow/Spanish onions. You might wonder why I don’t want to use the Vidalia onions from Vidalia, Georgia? The Vidalia’s are very sweet and I don’t want sweet in this stew. I want a tartness. You will see what I mean.
All I want to do here is to grind the onions into very small pieces and divide them into the 2 pots for the stew.
The Chicken Broth, The Chickens, The Potatoes, and The Onions
Next Come all the Cans!!!
4 Cans of Chopped Tomatoes
4 Cans of Cream Corn
2 Cans of Yellow Corn, drained
2 Cans of Shoepeg Corn, drained (my favorite)
2 Cans of Lima Beans, drained
4 Cans of Green Peas, drained
Feel free to play with this and add, or omit, what you want to.
All the Cans Have Been Added
It is at this point that I scoop out the stew from both pots and place it into another pot. You can see how high the stew is rising? It will only rise higher as I add more ingredients.
Next Comes the Ketchup!
I actually ended up using 5 Ketchup’s here.
You can also see the stew start to take on the reddish color.
As we are adding all of these ingredients, you do want the stew on a medium to low simmer.
Next Comes the Worcestershire Sauce
I used everyone of them in the photo above left.
Next Comes the Lemon Juice, Vinegar, and Tabasco Sauce
I used 3 of the 4 Lemon Juices, I used the entire 2 Quarts of Vinegar, and I used 1 and 1/2 of the Tabasco Sauce’s.
We have now spilled over into 4 pots!
At this point we have soup, not stew.
It needs to simmer away on the stove top for a good 2 -3 more hours to thicken up.
Gordon’s Home from Work
NOW, we have a thick stew!
It freezes very well.
I like freezing the stew in different sized containers from small to medium to large.
Sometimes all I want is one bowl full occasionally. Just to hit that SPOT!
Whenever Gordon’s brother comes to visit all he wants is my Brunswick Stew so I always have one thawed out and ready to heat up for Jeff.
I happily ate this for 6 nights straight. I don’t eat anything 6 nights in a row.
That’s how much I love my Brunswick Stew. 🙂
You know, it was hard for me to give this recipe to the world because it’s like a secret love letter that you keep tucked away in an attic trunk with a false bottom. But taking it with me to my grave just seems too selfish. Oh, and I’m not dying or anything. I’m just stating that we never know when our time is up and I just wanted to leave behind a few treasures for a treasure hunter to find and enjoy.
Seasoned Oyster Crackers
I cannot eat my Brunswick Stew without Oyster Crackers. It just wouldn’t be right. Really!
Normally I like them plain, as in the Premium Soup and Oyster Crackers, in the photo below.
But, I do love the “Seasoned” version just to snack on, with, or without my stew.
Here is that recipe:
The rations are one bag of crackers per recipe.
One Bag, or 5 Cups of Oyster Crackers
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Packet of Ranch Style Dressing Mix
1/2 t. Dried Dill Weed
1/4 t. lemon Pepper
Throw the dried ingredients into a large bowl, then add the vegetable oil.
Add the oyster crackers to the mix in the bowl and coat the crackers.
When the crackers have been coated place them onto a baking sheet and put inside a 250F oven for about 20 minutes. Turn the crackers after about 10 minutes and place back inside the oven.
When done, remove from oven and place onto paper towels for the crackers to cool.
The Dill and Lemon Pepper are Perfect Here!
My Grandmother’s Recipe….
and her pastry thingy.
She gave me 2 of them.
One was all beat up from use, and one was brand new. Sadly, I threw out the beat up one and kept the brand new one. She used the beat up one to make her Cheese Straws.
Recreating my grandmother’s cheese straws and have them be exactly like hers was very important to me. So my making my grandmother’s cheese straws was a success, and a failure. They were a success in the fact that I made delicious cheese straws. But they were a failure in the fact that they weren’t like hers.
I hadn’t made them in a very long time and I had sort of forgotten how. Even though I have my grandmother’s handwritten recipe of how she made them, I literally have to speak “Nellie Mae” to figure it all out. Which reminds me of when we were living in Honolulu I was trying to make them and I misunderstood one of her ingredients and ruined them. She wrote “shortening” , meaning “butter or margarine” and I ended up using Crisco! Ugh! So, I had to call her up and she talked me through her recipe and they tasted exactly like hers when they were done. If I could do it back then, I can do it now. I’m starting to remember a few things so I will be making these again in the near future.
I ended up combining my Grandmother’s Cheese Straw recipe with my Mother’s Cheese Straw recipe, and that is where I made my mistake. When I make them again I will only use my Grandmother’s recipe as I think I have deciphered her notes.
(This is more my mother’s recipe so I will write hers down as she wrote it to me. And this is probably a very basic cheese straw recipe anyway.)
1 lb. Sharp Cheddar Cheese
4 Sticks Margarine
4 Cups Plain Flour
1 t. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 t. Cayenne Pepper
Mix cheese, margarine and seasonings. Gradually add flour until well blended. Shape into straws or wafers (cookie press) and bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 300 degrees until lightly browned (about 20 to 25 minutes.) May be frozen.
by Mary Keith Haskin Lancaster
My grandmother sifted her flour whereas my mother doesn’t. So I did sift here.
Adding the softened margarine to the sifted flour and working it through with my fingers.
I used 1 lb. of Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
(I should have used just Sharp Cheddar.)
Grated the Cheese, Added it to the Flour and Margarine
Worcestershire Sauce, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika
Mix All Together
My Grandmother’s Pastry Thingy
My Grandmother, and every southern lady used that star shape for their cheese straws. It’s all beat up from use. All the other templates look brand new because they were never used.
With the star shape attached, it’s ready to add the cheesy mixture.
How I have set the part that goes on top of the tube, is how you should set yours.
Filled with the Cheesy Mixture
Put the oven on 300F
Use an ungreased baking sheet. You just want to push the cheesy dough mixture out through the star shape by twisting the handle downward in a clockwise motion. Righty tighty, lefty loosy.
Ready for the Oven
Unfortunately, mine don’t look like straws, they look like snakes!
But come to think of it, my grandmother’s did too. 🙂
Fresh Out of the Oven
(I did sprinkle a little bit of Cayenne Pepper on top before they went into the oven.)
Beautiful Crispy, Tasty, Cheese Straws/Snakes
My Grandmother’s Recipe:
As written in her handwriting….
1 Cup Stivers Flour (I think that was a brand of flour that she used.)
3/4 Cup Grated Sharp Cheddar
1/2 Cup Shortening (she means butter or margarine.)
1/2 t. Paprika
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Cold Water to make stiff dough.
Sift and measure the flour. Add the cheese and shortening, rub them into the flour. Add the Paprika and Cayenne. Make a stiff dough by adding water a little at a time. Roll the pastry 1/4 inch thick, cut into strips one third inch wide by 5 inches long using a pastry jigger or a sharp knife. Place the strips on a baking sheet in even rows and bake in a hot oven (425) F until the straws are a delicious brown, about (10 – 15 minutes)
Piece of cake, right?
I think I am remembering now so I will make these again and they will taste like hers, I am determined! I have only ever seen her make them with this pastry thingy so I really don’t know what she is talking about by ‘cutting them into strips’ in her write up above?
But for now you have 2 Cheese Straw recipes, My Mother’s, My Grandmother’s, and you will have mine soon. 🙂
See Y’all Later!
Or as Nellie Mae would say, “Gimme some sugar!!!” (That’s kisses.)
Or in her very thick southern accent, “Jewlee, gimme some shug-ah!)
Julie’s Cheese Straws: Coming Soon!
Angel Food Cake
Angel Food Cake has been a staple in the south for as long as I can remember, also a staple in my life.
I would love to say to you that I am making an Angel Food Cake from a recipe of my Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, or something like that. But, I’m not. I’m sure that my Grandmother, Nellie Mae, has made a homemade Angel Food Cake in her youth and even into middle age, but with the Betty Crocker boxed ingredients that made life simple and easy as she matured, I’m pretty sure my Grandmother adopted the easy cake bake lifestyle.
Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake Mix
The only Angel Food Cake that my Grandmother made.
Just follow the instructions on the box.
My philosophy is that when you find something simple and easy AND delicious, then does it really matter where it came from?
We made this cake in the past for some foodies that Gordon knows, and with my sea foam frosting and they were so impressed with the cake. They kept asking for the recipe. Gordon told them that I just used a Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake mix and that it wasn’t anything homemade. One thing that they all said was that sometimes it is technique in making something taste better than it normally would.
I agree. I think the fact that I use an old mixer and do a lot of turning of the vintage porcelain bowls by hand, as I mix and the beater, beats, makes a difference.
Both of these Angel Food Cake Funnels belonged to my Grandmother.
One is Silver, One is Non-Stick
That does make a difference in the cooking times.
When the cakes come out of the oven, place them onto a bottle upside down, in order to cool.
You want them to thoroughly cool.
The reason you will not see these cakes placed onto some beautiful platter with lots of frosting and embellishments is because the cake never made it past this stage when my grandmother would make it for me. I would usually grab chunks out of it as it cooled to snack on. Of course, she would scold me for it. But I never really got in trouble with her. She loved me! And we never hold anything against the ones we love. 🙂