Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance will be delving deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. Dig in.
Last week I wrote about hash, the classic South Carolina barbecue side dish, so it seems only fitting this week to address Brunswick stew, the staple side of North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.
Two different Brunswick Counties - one in Georgia and one in Virginia - claim to have originated the famous stew. The Georgia case includes a very physical piece of evidence: a historical monument outside the town of Brunswick with a 25-gallon iron pot on a stone base bearing the inscription: "In this pot the first Brunswick Stew was made on St. Simon Isle, July 2, 1898."
It's a nice touch, but by 1898, Brunswick stew had been served in Virginia for over half a century. It appears in newspaper accounts of Virginia barbecues as far back as 1849, when the Alexandria Gazette described it as "a genuine South-side dish, composed of squirrels, chicken, a little bacon, and corn and tomatoes, ad libitum."
More on Georgia-style Brunswick stew
Brunswick stew seems to have been created in the 1820s by James Matthews, a noted squirrel hunter (what a distinction!) in Brunswick County, VA. Matthews cooked his squirrels in water with bacon and onions until the flesh separated from the bones, which he skimmed out before finishing the stew with butter and breadcrumbs.
After his death, Matthews was succeeded by a series of local stew masters, and over time they added tomato, onion, corn, and potatoes to the recipe. By the 1840s the stew was being served at barbecues throughout the state. It soon snuck into North Carolina and, eventually, to Georgia.
Sorry, Peach State. History is on the side of the Virginians on this one.
Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper and author of "Barbecue: the History of an American Institution". Follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
Delve into more barbecue goodness from the Southern Foodways Alliance blog
Previously - Bar-B-Que buffet and Give squirrel a whirl and Burgoo with a smidge of squirrel
Squirrel is good food. Brunswick stew is overdoing a good meat source. Small ones are best roasted, and larger ones are good in stews, but the recipes I've seen - admittedly not all that are available, I am sure - render the meat down to a tasteless residue of past flavor. Squirrel is not THAT tough! Cooked right, it rivals other sources of mammalian meat.
Squirrel is like any other meat. There can be tremendous variation from animal to animal. I killed a squirrel when I was a teenager that was muscled like no other I had ever seen, and I really was looking forward to having the 'extra' meat. That squirrel remains, to this day, by far the toughest meat I ever tried to eat in my life, and I'm past 50 now. Leather couldn't possibly be any tougher than that squirrel was – he must have been 10 years old.
Only meal I had in Colonial Williamsburg that made me puke.
Wallace s Bar Be Que in Austell Ga had damn fine stew
Was grateful since I'm from Carolina centric Augusta, and we only have hash
Not to nit pick, but Georgia's Brunswick is a city, not a county. Brunswick (and Saint Simons) are Glynn County.
insert an in between are and Glynn!
Those who decry squirrel or pigeon as "gross" or unfit are products of this infantalized culture of the present. Read a little history and then actually have a real experience or two. Eating these animals was what fueled the folks who were busy establishing this country. Go ahead and eat your antibiotic fed, hormone injected, pink slime added-to garbage that you've been convinced is what real food should taste like. Meanwhile , I and my family will continue to supplement our larder with clean living wild animals which taste far better and are far healthier than the crap you are eating. Bon appetit!
The article has nothing to do with the South and the North. Unless you Northerners are just looking to get your stuck up ace's kicked.
Are you still fighting the war? I don't feel comfortable in the South except in areas that are more transient. Came from NY and went to school in Ft Lauderdale in the 50's and was told with attitude "we do it this way, in the South" Whoa! Got my only traffic ticket (with NY plates) in VA. Had my only accident (a truck rearended me while I was stopped at a light) in Charlotte NC. The 19 year old who hit me, had no license, no ins and I wasn't able to collect even though a policeman was at the scene and I had a witness. I was told by the Motor Vehicle Bureau in Charlotte "Y'all are welcome to come down and sue" Thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather live where people aren't out for revenge for something that happened decades ago! Aside from that...you have a very bad attitude...no SOUTHERN charm...as they say!
Squirrel is to bony..grew up on squirrel dumplings and was introduced to Brunswick stew a few years ago...but with chicken..NOT squirrel
Biggest problem with eating squirrels is lead from the shot you used to shoot them with. Got to make sure you use 100% steel shot.
Shotgun for squirrel ??? no, that's what 22s are for.
Use a sling shot. Makes less noise for the neighbors to complain about, plus less chance of richottes hitting anyone.
I just use a .22 head shot.
I love gray squirrel, with butter and onions, green peppers, salt pepper on a bed of noodles.
Leeks instead of the green onions.
Americans are rednecks.
I thought only Asians eat dogs and rats.
Nothing was said about dogs and rats, the article was about squirrels, pay attention, Opie!
Squirrels are just cuter rats.
One needn't be a 'redneck' to enjoy different types of cuisine!
Human flesh! yum yum!!
Agreed, PC, Americans (particularly southerners?) ARE rednecks! Why is it necessary to eat squirrel? How's that go with favre beans and a nice chianti?
Well Obama tells in his book about eating dog and he's not Asian.
You must be priveleged. some poor people in the south grew up on the stuff. If you knew the story behind the food that you go to the store and buy,you'd start hunting squirrel too. much better for you, much cleaner, no chemical implants, no pesticides and on and on. The FDA allows a certain % of bugs to be in your cereals and peanut butter, so you HAVE eaten worse.
Peaceful, I and many people grew up eating squirrel, rabbits, deer, quail and dove. The meat is leaner and healthier than most things you can buy in the stores. As for your Asian comment, shame on you. Many, Asian cultures do not believe in wasting food. They eat everything. There is nothing wrong with that. At least most Asian food is real as opposed to the science experiments that we call food today.
It takes a hard hearted person to shoot such an endearing little creature!
When you grow up hungry, then you can make that determination.
But they taste so yummy!!! you've prob'ly never had rabbit stew before eother, huh?
But they taste so yummy!!! Rabbit stew is awful tasty as well, yum, yum!!!
The only difference between a rat & a squirrel is that bushy tail.
So does that bushy tail make a difference? You bet it does! That's the flavor indicator.
Some people enjoy killing just for the fun of it.... not for the food.
Says the fool who probably buys meat from supermarkets that comes from animals that get gutted alive. Hunting is 1000x more "humane" than buying meat from a supermarket.
Bambi tastes good. Thumper tastes good. Rocky tastes good. So does Bullwinkle. Must be cool sitting up on the pedestal.
'bout as hard as fleecing Mary's little lamb for Easter dinner.
wait .. is that an euphemism? please let it be...
If you had over $3000 dollars of repairs to a vehicle and over $1500 to another where a squirrel had gone under the hood and destroyed the wiring, then maybe they are not so cute any longer. Squirrel pie sounds far too good for the vermin.
Those two Brunswick counties can pound sand. It was my great great great great great great grandfather who made the biggest contribution to the recipe. (signed: Squiggy the Squirrel)
Gray over squirrel yuuumy
What wine goes well with squirrel?
Mad Dog 20/20.
A rough chianti, or an earthy Argentinian shiraz.
A fine Georgia red
I used to eat squirrels and rabbits when I was a kid. They're quite good. But Brunswick stew is not. I never liked it and still don't.
Floured and pan fried.
Agree as well. For starters, I don't eat corn in anything. But I can make a killer squirrel stew.
Is that a killer stew from squirrel, or a stew made from killer squirrels?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but apart from cows, isn't the squirrel the only other confirmed source of humans contracting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, aka Mad Cow Disease? I seem to recall reading an article about it some years back; seems the squirrel hunters in the backwoods of West Va or some such place were diagnosed and the source was tracked to eating 'squirrel brains' or some other part of the animal.
That possibility is enough for me to say 'no thank you' when offered a mess of squirrel; Stewed, poached, baked, steamed, fried or pickled. I'd rather have the chicken. You never know who a squirrel has been associating with.
Cheekly little devils... they'll get their revenge on man yet, eh? Gotta love them!
I think you're talking about deer.
Not really. Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (CJD) is the name given to the human form of that particular TSE, and has been known for decades. It primarily affects older people in their 60's or beyond. There was a study several years ago that found that a number of CJD patients had also made a habit of consuming squirrel brains. Nothing in the way of a causal relationship was established, and there was no relationship between eating any other part of the squirrel and developing CJD, if memory serves me correctly.
The human disease that has been associated with BSE has been deemed a 'variant' of the "traditional" CJD, and is called either vCJD or nvCJD, depending on who's talking (or writing). This disease affects primarily younger adults, and the symptoms, while similar, aren't exactly the same as CJD.
The best brunswick stew also has pulled pork in it.
Sounds like t squirrel's really just a novelty. Might as well forgo the squirrel altogether.
and here I thought Brunswick stew was boston butt in a bbq style sauce... hmmm
Only the lowest form of human life eat rodents: Southerners!
You probably eat chicken abortions (eggs) so S_T_F_U
You sound like the complete fool you are. Go back to sleep and do something useful for all of us.
Oh you ignorant fool. You don't know anything.
I could not agree with you more. The lowest form of human being eats a rodent. The most diseased, disgusting animals on earth.
Chickens are the only animals who eat their own S***!.....I'd eat a Squirrel any day
To be fair, rabbits eat their own poo as well.
Joe, if we're gonna get technical about it, rabbits eat their cecals, not fecals, so while it *does* come out of the same place, it's not poop.
Weirdly, I wrote about that last week: http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/06/19/notes-from-zone-6b-missing-the-littlest-gardener/
Duh! let's kill us some hairy rats..... killing animals is fun!
What you don't want to eat your kin? You sound like a stuck up priveleged, RAT.
I like squirrel, with biscuits, mustard and french fried taters. mmmmmmm
So Brunswick stew seems to be kind of like Burgoo without the squirrel. Then again, Burgoo can have just about anything you want to toss in there, also like you can do with jambalaya (although I cook mine without a bunch of extra crap). Many towns claim they invented Burgoo and that theirs is the best. Its cooked outside in places like the City park by Lion's Clubs and Jay-Cees. Plus, isn't Brunswick a city in Georgia rather than a county?
Swap the meat for something non-squirrel and its probably good! However, judging by the ingredients lists, it sounds like a rather common stew that can be found anywhere in the world.
If the economy gets any worse I may be eating squires:)
Yes, squires are good, they tend to be rather plump and succulent, and are excellent with some fava beans and nice chianti. Don't care for squirrel, though.
Republicans. Can't spell and will never admit that the economy is actually getting better. Unemployment is dropping, the housing market is improving, we are extricating ourselves from Bush's expensive wars.
Attention to the author, the TOWN is called Brunswick, in Georgia, not the county (Brunswick, GA is in Glynn County Georgia.). Did the editor just not look at this article before posting?
If people have no other sources of protein, squirrel, and even the ancient Roman delicacy: mice, could be eaten. However, there are more people with allergies to these meats than one might realize. And if you need any medicine that is made using mice (and that includes some cancer drugs), you might have a terrible reaction if you have been eating these foods. There are parts of the country with such a poor diet that squirrel is a much better option than no squirrel; eating meat sources prevents some serious vitamin B deficiencies for example that can cause dementia, but if you have the option to eat protein without eating squirrel, you might want to avoid it.
Good eating stewed, fried or smothered in gravy with biscuits and fried corn on the side.
Who wouldn't love a nice succulent chunk of squirrel served in a savory sauce?
What a nice surprise to see Brunswick Stew on CNN.com - I'm from Brunswick County, VA but do not live there anymore. The debate over which Brunswick is the rightful home of the stew has been hotly contested between the two localities for quite some time– and of course, we from Virginia believe we created it. It's been a fun part of our heritage, bringing us regional and national media attention, which is always nice for such a small community. Brunswick Stew is only sold in quarts, freshly cooked, by our local fire departments and civic clubs, made by the official Stewmasters. If you ever are driving through southside Virginia on Interstate 85 or 95, make a pit stop for a bowl - and FYI, it isn't made with squirrel anymore– it's now chicken! :)
I've have eaten squirrel. It's tough. I imagine that's why the old stewmasters boiiled the squirrels till the meat fell off the bones. But without the squirrel, isn't Brunswick Stew just chicken soup?
The squirrel IS cute and all, but it makes perfectly good sense to eat them. They are in abundance, and their diet consists of nuts. Sounds like a clean animal to me; alot cleaner then pig.
Is it just me or is there a dude front middle in a dress in that picture?...not that there's anything wrong with that.
I think that is an apron
Or a hairy lady
He's wearing an apron, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Yep he be waring a dres and a holdin dat fellers hand nix to im. You recun they be kin?
So, is Squirrel Mulligan an offshoot of Brunswick Stew? When and where did Mulligan originate?
My cat loves squirrels too
Coming next week, Opossum with collard greens.
Collard greens are healthy. Nothing wrong with those, but possum is too greasy.
I have caught (and disposed of) many a squirrel during the winter months as they were gnawing on the wooden beams in my house. Maybe cooking them up might not be a bad idea.
What a fun surprise to see Brunswick Stew mentioned here – I'm from Brunswick County, Virginia, though I do not live there anymore. The debate over who invented Brunswick Stew has been quite the hotly contested issue between both Brunswicks - and even my boyfriend's father claims that his hometown in North Carolina first created it! It's only sold by the quart, made fresh, by local fire departments and civic clubs, and only made by official Stewmasters - you have to be a Brunswick County native in order to hold such a title. It's a fun part of our heritage, something that has indeed brought regional and national attention to our little community. So if you are ever driving on Hwy 58, or Interstate 85, make a pit stop in our town and buy a bowl - and FYI, it's not made with squirrels anymore, just chicken! :)
Smithfield's Chicken 'N BAR-B-Q in eastern NC has the best brunswick stew
I'm confused about how "Matthews cooked his squirrels in water with bacon and onions ..." and then " ... over time they added tomato, onion ..."
Did they add more onions?
(Squirrel doesn't taste like chicken. And I like it in a sandwich rather than a stew.)
I don't see what the story is here? There's squirrel meat in the stew. So? If cooked properly....it's perfectly fine to eat. Wouldn't be my first choice as a main course but in a stew....not bad at all. Most wouldn't even know what they're eating. Nothing new or ground breaking here.
The story isn't about how to cook the squirrel. It's about where it originated from. Georgia or Virginia...
Must be a slow news day.
And this is the part where someone says, “Eww! Squirrel!? What kind of redneck would eat a tree rat?” as they continue to eat bacon – which comes from an animal that rolls in and will eat its own feces.
Then you have hunter/outdoorsman who replies to belittle everyone who has not eaten a “Moses’ Ark” worth of different animals in their life just because they have not eaten as many different meats as they have.
And lastly, you’re going to get the people who have eaten squirrel and try to make themself sound worldly and well cultured by telling you all the other meats they have eaten in exotic dishes throughout the country and rest of the world.
Then there's the common sense reply that wonders what the big deal is here and also wonders why you try to predict other replys instead of offering one of your OWN?
Did you mean 'Noah's Ark'? ...not too sure but I dont think Moses had an ark.
I was trying to sound all redneck-like, thus the quotes.
Humor fail on my part. :(
Well, actually, Moses did have an ark, but it was a different kind. ;)
And then there is the type that have nothing to add so they look down their noses and people that actually contribute content and then pigeonhole them into categories.
Why oh why do reporters always make silly mistakes. The "Brunswick" in Georgia is not a county. It's a city in Glynn county. I grew up on St. Simons Island and my mom's Brunswick stew recipe is by far the best I've ever had. In fact, I have some in my freezer right now. I don't use squirrel though cuz then my kids wouldn't eat it!
It appears the author is upset because somebody ate a squirrel. I wonder what he eats himself.
Which author would that be? Looks like this article was more about who was the first to make Brunswick stew.
Little more explanation for those of us north of the Mason Dixon please?
Here in the South, a favorite group picnic involves barbecue. Pork that has been slow-cooked over a grill marrinated in a sauce. The two main camps are the tomato-based and the vinegar-based barbecue sauces. There's a lively competition regarding the best sauce. One classic side-dish is Brunswick Stew. The contents vary, but a purist insists it must contain squirrel. In the South we have an abundance of grey squirrels. After they trash your bird feeders and chew into your attic, you are more than willing to eat a few if nothing more than to cut down the population. The meat doesn't taste bad at al, but it's very lean and is best stewed.
Leave my cute little "tree rats" outta the stew!
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