We’re eating sweet and peppery Brunswick stew filled with shredded chicken, smoked ham, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and butter beans.
There are Brunswick counties in Georgia, North Carolina AND Virginia. Apparently all three of these states like to claim this traditional hunter’s stew as their own. While I have no idea of its actual origin, I would guess that the version I grew up eating was likely the Virginian since I was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and my dad’s family comes from the Tidewater region of Virginia – a little over an hour away from Brunswick County.
Here is pretty much all I remember from eating the Brunswick stew that my dad made when I was a wee little child: it had a sweet tomato-y base with shredded meat, corn and butter beans… and it was heavy on the the black pepper. In addition to my memory of the basic ingredients, I recall how much I thoroughly loved the dish. Maybe it was the sweetness and the heartiness or the fact that it was most often served on a cold wintery day, but something about this stew appealed to me as a child and still appeals to me as an adult. My tastebuds may have prefered to use dark meat chicken (or rabbit, really) rather than boneless skinless chicken breasts, and bacon to season rather than lean smoked pork, but my desire to make this a healthy soup won out. The recipe below is not a traditional brunswick stew, but a relatively healthy version whose flavors are remniscent of the stew I remember eating from my childhood. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. (Ooooo and if you can, make it a day in advance because, like all stews, it tastes way better on the second and third day!)