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The Origins of Brunswick Stew Aren't What You Think

Both Brunswick County, Virginia and Brunswick, Georgia claim to have invented the beloved Brunswick stew. Each state uses their own ingredients and flavorings, some using chicken, others going for rabbit or pulled pork. The stew has countless recipes, textures, seasonings and names depending on where you are. However, the origin of this Southern delicacy goes back further than Brunswick County, all the way back to Southeastern Native Americans.

What Are the Origins of Brunswick Stew?

The Brunswick stew recipe invented by the Native Americans in the Southeast involved ingredients like squirrels, ground hogs, and hominy, along with game like deer and bear. They also added in veggies like corn and squash, which are central ingredients in Native American cooking.

In precolonial times, Native Americans only ate what they could grow or catch on the land they were on, and they used every part of the animal for survival. Brunswick Stew was one of the hearty recipes that reflects this resourcefulness, as it was made with essentially whatever meat and veggies they had at the time.

When European settlers came to the United States, the Native Americans shared their foodways, teaching the settlers how to grow corn and cook with the ingredients at hand. Because of this, many of our classic American dishes have Native American roots, like corn bread, corn fritters, grits, chili and baked beans.

Which Brunswick?

Although the origins of Brunswick Stew go back to pre-colonial times, their place in today's society is a subject of debate. Those in Virginia are fully convinced that they created this cozy cold-weather soup, while Georgia feels the same. It's hard to know who's right, but there's no denying that it originally came from Native Americans.

In Virginia, the stew is typically made with chicken as the primary meat, along with rabbit occasionally. Georgia, on the other hand, uses beef and pork and makes the soup spicy. North Carolina is known to add in some pulled pork.

How to Make Brunswick Stew

This creamy stew often includes veggies like okra, corn kernels, baby lima beans, butter beans, potatoes and diced tomatoes. Chicken stock or chicken broth is another essential ingredient. Each recipe and region is different, but Brunswick Stew is often flavored with a few cups barbecue sauce, about a tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, a few cloves garlic, and a bit of spice like hot sauce or a teaspoon cayenne pepper.

The prep time is minimal and usually involves chopping your veggies. Then, you'll sauté them, add in broth, and simmer on the stove on medium heat for a long cook time, often about 45 minutes for a total time of about an hour. Or, you can make it in an Instant pot, crock pot or slow cooker for an even easier recipe. Serving it with cornbread, biscuits or coleslaw makes for a filling, warming meal for winter and fall-time.

Get the recipe here.