Monday, July 5, 2010

Cookout Fun and Brunswick Stew; aka "Heaven in a Bowl"

This year, since July 4th was on a Sunday, my sister and I used our powers of persuasion and irrefutable logic to convince everyone that it would be a shame not to have a cookout on Saturday AND Sunday.  So, since we all like to eat, everyone agreed that was a fantastic idea.  Here are the menus and plans for each cookout:


Menu:  Pulled pork barbecue, baked beans, slaw (regular cole slaw and red bbq slaw YUM!), chips, hushpuppies, Brunswick stew, brownies, and cupcakes with red and blue sugar sprinkles.

Plans:  A blow-up-the-neighborhood fireworks extravaganza. 


Menu:  Grilled chicken breasts, BBQ ribs (it's shameful how much I love ribs), salad, potato salad, the same 2 types of slaws, baked beans, the Brunswich stew made a repeat appearance, and homemade peach and strawberry ice cream.

Plans:  Go to a nearby church to see their fireworks display, then have a repeat performance of our blow-up-the-neighborhood show.

Confession:  I don't actually like homemade ice cream.  SHHHHH!!!  Don't tell anyone.  It's just too much like a milkshake to me, and I don't like milkshakes either.  Ok, my secret is out.

Review:  The food was amazing.  We all gained approximately 3 lbs.  My in-laws came, and my father-in-law loved the Brunswick stew and ate about 3 bowls.  We love Brunswick stew in this family, and in fact it's the only stew I'll eat because most others and milk-based and I just don't do hot milk.

My grandparents brought home the recipe for Brunswick stew after my grandpa spent several years preaching near Brunswick County, NC, where it was invented (sidenote:  Brunswick, GA also claims to have invented it, but I side with NC)  Up there, the people cook it outside all day in big cast iron washpots, and they invite the entire community over to eat it with pickles and plain white loaf bread.  There were never enough chairs, so people ate it while sitting on the ground or on car hoods.  We don't have a big cast iron wash pot quite like they had, but we have this:
This is how you make Brunswick stew.  It's another un-recipe because a lot of it's really a matter of taste.  There are 3 hard and fast rules:  use at least 3 kinds of meat (beef, pork, chicken); use potatoes, corn, and lima beans; and have it just swimming in black pepper.

First, cook down your 3 meats until they are literally falling apart and you can't tell one from the next.  Then you slice up a whole bunch of onions (matter of taste, but I say the more the better) and you put them in the big outside pot and cook them in the meat broth until they are transparent and almost falling apart.  You can go ahead and start adding black pepper.

Then, put in the meat.  It will be thick, heavy, and hard to stir, so you don't want the heat too high or the bottom can scorch.  Add chopped potatoes (small chunks, and already cooked at least half way done before you put them in), a bunch of lima beans (at least 2 bags if you use frozen) and a bunch of whole kernel corn (fresh or frozen will do fine.) 

Now you need the tomatoes, since it's a tomato-based stew.  We put in 5 cans of diced tomatoes (mostly drained, but you can leave some juice), a huge can of tomato juice, and a large can of crushed tomatoes.  Then we dumped it full of black pepper again. 

Here's another essential part:  Liquid Smoke.  I don't really know what's in that stuff, but you drizzle it in something and it gives it a smoky, rich, caramelized flavor that is just delicious.  We put in maybe 1/4 a cup or so.  You don't want to overdo it.

Then we added a bunch of paprika, more for color than anything else.  Then we put in more pepper (I'm telling you, it's got to be SWIMMING in it), and I put in about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of sugar to cut some of the tomato acidity.  Don't worry, it didn't make the stew sweet at all!

Finally, you just put the top on and let all this goodness cook and blend together on low heat, careful to stir occasionally and not to let the bottom get scorched.  It cooked for several hours.

And when it's done, it looks like this:


It's so thick, you can pretty much eat it with a fork.  It also freezes well, and may even taste a little better the second time around.  Don't be afraid!  Get yourself a huge pot, set it on a cookstand hooked to a propane tank, and make yourself some delicious Brunswick stew.

It may change your life.  

Oh, and here's another sidenote:  What we had would be referred to as a COOK-OUT.  It could also be referred to as a barbecue, but ONLY because we actually ate barbecue.  In the South, barbecue refers to a SAUCE or FLAVOR, not a method of cooking.  Cooking hamburgers and hotdogs on a grill does not a barbecue make.  Oh, and that thing I just mentioned that you cook things on outside?  Yeah, we call it it GRILL, never ever ever a barbecue.  Because we take our barbecue sauce very seriously, and we would never confuse it with an outside cooking appliance.  Thank you. 

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