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Sybil’s Brunswick Stew


Sybil was my great-grandmother.  This is her cauldron and her recipe for Brunswick Stew.  On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we made brunswick stew in the backyard.  It was an experience I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and it was wonderful to get to share it with my family.



Brunswick stew, for those unfamiliar, is a traditional Southern dish, whose origins are disputed.  As with all Southern dishes the stew itself ranges in ingredients depending on where you are.  The fundamental stew includes tomatoes, lima beans, corn, and meat.  Sybil preferred chicken and pork, though squirrel, rabbit, and beef can all be found in different variations.  Not unlike many recipes developed by those with limited resources, Brunswick stew is very much a cook-what’s-available meal. The addition of potatoes, however, is apparently unique to North Carolina.



The day before we arrived in North Carolina my father started processing the meat in what he began calling the “real kitchen.”  Also known as the garage.  He cooked 6 chickens and two pork shoulders, and then he boiled the bones for a while to great a sturdy broth.  According to my Great Uncle Everett (Sybil’s son), the broth is crucial.



The night before the stewing my brothers peeled twenty pounds of potatoes.  The recipe begins with boiling the quartered potatoes in water until everything gets hot.  This is the foundation of the stew.  After about half an hour of boiling potatoes the chopped onions go in.



The day before my dad also began soaking the lima beans.  This was the first time using dried beans in the stew, so it was an experiment.  The beans and tomato sauce get added at the same time, which is when this finally starts looking like Brunswick stew (the tomato color is crucial).



The adding of the meat was, well, disturbing.  My dad had stored the shredded meat in its broth for two days in the fridge in this 5 gallon bucket.  It was (and I apologize for those with sensitive stomachs) meat jelly.  And we added it in one jiggly scoop at a time.  Not for the weak of heart.



After the meat was added, the tomatoes and corn started to go in, pretty slowly. The stew level reached critical heights so after each addition we waited a while for the stew to cook down.  Then, more went in.  This pattern went on for about two hours.



You may have noticed that the stew is being stirred with a hockey stick.  After lamenting for days about what to use to stir the stew (we kept mentioning a stew oar), my dad had what he described as a “Pulp Fiction” moment in the garage, where he discovered the hockey stick a la Bruce Willis picking the samurai sword.  While some of us were skeptical at first, after it was cleaned it served as the perfect stirring tool.  Each of us had different stirring techniques, Dan likes a circular motion with the end of the stick while I prefer to paddle as though I’m Huckleberry Finn riding down a river of stew.



All in all the process took about three days, with about seven hours of cooking on Friday.  After it cooked it sat and rested, and then we served some up for dinner that night (and put the rest in an epic amount of tupperware (about half of which is pictured below)).  I thought it was excellent.  My dad, however, was very disappointed because the beans never fully softened.  In fact, his disappointment lead to my new favorite world view: “In life, you work really hard, but that doesn’t always matter. Sometimes you just get hard beans.” Preach it Paps.



Overall, this was exactly the memory I was hoping for.  I love my family and learning traditions like this is really special to me.  I can’t wait to make brunswick stew again- but not for a year or two.



Ed note: Looking for all the flavor of Sybil’s stew with a smaller time & cauldron commitment? Try our 8 hour Stovetop Brunswick Stew.


Brunswick Stew, Three Ways


My Uncle Everett sent two recipes from his mom, Sybil, which I’ve included.  I also included my dad and his cousin Michael’s recipe that they created based off of their memories of brunswick stew.  As Everett said, there are probably as many brunswick stew recipes as there are Southern mothers.


Sybil’s Stew #1, Makes 45 quarts:

1 1/2 lbs dried lima beans

2 quarts green lima beans

25 lbs potatoes

6 lbs onions

4 quarts of corn

4 gallons tomatoes

4 Five to 6 lb hens

20 lbs pork

(all stock)


Sybil’s Stew #2, Makes 40 quarts:

23 lbs pork (2 shoulders)

6 medium hens

25 lbs potatoes

5 lbs onions

2 lbs dried butter beans

2 quarts green butter beans

6 quarts corn

4 gal tomatoes


Everett’s memories: What I remember of the method was that everything was cooked in the previous broth. No seasonings were mentioned in either of mother’s recipes; I guess she salted as she went along.  I remember that we would add Worcestershire sauce at the table but not in the cooking process.


Dad & Cousin Mike’s Stew:

24 lbs Roaster Chickens (4 six pounders)

5 lbs Beef Roast

10 lbs Pork Butt

12 lbs Corn (3 gallon size cans)

18 lbs Potatoes (4 gallon size cans)

12 lbs Lima Beans (3 gallon size cans)

7 large Onions

One Garlic bulb

120 oz Tomato Sauce (8 15oz cans)

18 lbs Whole tomatoes (4 gallon size cans)

1/8 cup Garlic Powder

12 oz Texas Pete

½ cup Black pepper

1/8 cup Chili powder

0ne cup Salt (too much..start off with 1/2 cup sea salt)

15oz Worcestershire Sauce

50 oz Merlot


The Making Of:


Day One– Boil quartered chickens (liver and gizzards included) in water that has about a cup of coarse salt in it.  Boil until well done.  Remove and let cool.  Boil, in the same water, pork.  Shred meat and set aside, then boil the bones in the water.  Pour that broth over the meat and refrigerate.


Day Two– Peel potatoes and soak in water.  Cover lima beans in water, soak.


Day Three – Quarter potatoes.  Add them to the pot, over low heat with enough water to cover the potatoes.  Chop the onions and add them in.  Add lima beans.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often so that nothing sticks to the bottom.  Add in tomato sauce.


Scoop the congealed fat off of the meat bucket (let’s save some Southern hearts, okay?) and add the meat (and its jellied broth) to the pot, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil.  From there, add tomatoes and corn as there is room in the pot (make sure to drain them).


In the kitchen boil garlic in a small pot until soft.  Smash the garlic and add that, and the water, to the stew.


Add in salt, pepper, hot sauce, and worcestershire sauce.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about five more hours.  Let rest 1 hour.


It’s important to taste as you go.  We ended up with a stew that was well salted (undersalted to our Rosemond tongues but good for the normal person) and just a bit spicy.  Allow people to doctor it to their own tastes with salt and hot sauce.  When we reheated the first batch at home in our crock pot I added about a tablespoon of siracha and a sprinkle of sea salt.  It was perfection (and after 8 hours in the crockpot my beans were perfect).

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Breakfast Pizza

First of all, I apologize for the phone pictures.  This was not a recipe I planned to post, but one that I photographed obsessively because, you know, that’s what I do.  Anyway, this pizza turned out to be SO delicious that I thought it would be criminal not to share it with you.  So here it is.

I started craving a breakfast pizza on Saturday, after my friends Dana and Juliet brought it up (in all its delicious detail) on twitter.  So often when those two start talking food I drop everything and eat what they’re eating.  Because they eat delicious things.

A breakfast pizza is a pizza topped with anything you love about breakfast.  I’ve seen ones with a million combinations of breakfast meats, cheeses, vegetables, and, of course, eggs.  This one included smoked bacon, caramelized onions, green peppers (the last from our garden), jalapeños, three cheeses, green onions, garlic, and eggs.  And oh. my. delicious.  I want to marry this pizza.

Yesterday we also headed to VA to hang with the nieces and Megan.  Can I just reiterate how great nieces are?  Nieces + breakfast pizza = wonderful Sunday.

Related to, you know, the major holiday coming up later this week, I think this breakfast pizza would be the perfect morning-after meal for the family.  Big enough to serve 4 or 5 adults, loaded with delicious (and, if you’d like, leftovers), it’s easy and very, very good.

Breakfast Pizza

1 tbsp dry active yeast
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
¾ cup warm water
½ tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp kosher salt


1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño
Green onions
1 bell pepper
1/4 cup soft cheese (brie, goat, chèvre)
1/4 cup white cheddar
1/4 cup sharp cheddar
4-5 strips bacon
3 eggs

Olive oil & salt to finish

Whisk together olive oil, yeast, salt, basil, and water. Whisk until fully incorporated, at least 2 minutes. Add half of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add remaining flour and knead for ten minutes, until the dough feels like a stress ball.

Coat a glass bowl with olive oil. Place the dough ball in the bowl, turn once, and cover with a damp towel. Let rise for at least an hour. Punch down and let rise another 15 minutes.

While your dough is rising, cook your bacon.  I like to cook mine on a rack in a 375 oven (takes about 30 minutes).  It cooks nicely and evenly.  When I do that, however, I always cook one or two pieces in the pan so that I have drippings to caramelize the onions in.  So, get your bacon going.  Dice your onions and pepper, and mince your garlic and jalapeños.  In your bacon drippings cook the onions, garlic, and jalapeños until nice and brown.  Next shred your cheese.

Roll out your dough and heat your oven to 500 (or as high as it goes).  Start with a layer of your soft cheese.  Then spoon your onions over this.  Add peppers, bacon, and cheddar cheeses.  Crack three eggs over the whole pizza.  Sprinkle the pizza with coarse salt.  Brush the edges with olive oil and salt.

Bake for 12 minutes for drippy eggs (my preference) and 14 for solid egg yolks.  Enjoy!

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Bourbon & Maple Glazed Turkey

For those of you who have followed the blog for a while, you may remember that last year Dan and I fried our first turkey together. It was an awesome learning experience and that turkey was delicious, but it was kind of terrifying and afterwards I got a lecture from the Captain about wearing protective wear (says the guy who fries turkeys in his garage).  So, this year, we went into the whole turkey frying thing a little more cautiously.  Meaning, Dan read the transcript from the Alton Brown turkey frying episode. Y’all, that is exactly why I love my husband.  Because he reads tv show transcripts to learn. For funsies.

Alton Brown has never lead us astray, and this turkey was no different.  His recommendation, to prevent the thing where the oil gets all furious when you put the turkey in, is to lower the temperature to around 230, add the turkey, add more oil if necessary, and then raise the temperature.  It worked like a gem.  This turkey was incredible.  I apologize in advance for the gratuitous photographs. I promise you, this is about 1/3 of the amount that I took.

See? No crazy bubbling over! Just a calm, happily cooking turkey.

Later, there was the bubbling that says “I’m going to be delicious!”

The most delicious turkey I have ever had.

The bourbon-maple glaze.  And, below, our friend Chris holding up the back of my “studio” so it wouldn’t blow over in the wind.  Also, I think he was trying to figure out a way to steal the turkey without anyone noticing.

Bourbon & Maple Glazed Turkey

To fry a turkey, you need a large burner, a pot meant for turkey frying (you can get them cheap at any home improvement store), oil to fill your pot, and an oil thermometer.  If you’re not frying, this glaze would still be delicious on a roasted turkey, just apply it before, during, and after roasting.

To begin, heat your oil to around 230.  Take your turkey out of the brine, and attach it to the hook.  Lower it, slowly, into the oil.  If necessary, add more oil so that the turkey is covered.  Raise the temperature to 375.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per pound, or until golden brown.  We cooked out 12 pound turkey for 31 minutes and it was perfect.

About 10 minutes before your turkey is ready to come out of the oil, combine 2 1/2 cups maple syrup and 1 cup bourbon.  Simmer, stirring together.

When your turkey is ready, lift it out of the oil and allow it to drain.  Place it on a platter and carefully remove the hook.  Immediately cover in glaze.  For the next 30-40 minutes (or an hour if you’re very patient), glaze every 10 minutes as the turkey cools and its juices redistribute.

At the request of the group I left the glaze on the table so people could pour more on their turkey.  It was pretty delicious and totally addictive.

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