Foodie Friday: Brunswick Stew

4-Hers in the Camp Schaub dining hall in Haywood Co., NC, ca. 1955.

4-Hers in the Camp Schaub dining hall in Haywood Co., NC, ca. 1955.

In the days before agricultural mechanization in North Carolina, the tobacco harvesting and curing frequently included communal meals to feed all the workers, relatives, and neighbors involved.  Brunswick stew featured prominently in those meals, and it was also popular at fundraising events.  Once widely cooked throughout the American South, brunswick stew recipes have included vegetables, beans, and meat--originally small game (such as squirrel), later chicken, pork, and beef.  There are countless variations.

We found a few recipes for brunswick stew in some of Special Collection's Cooperative Extension collections.  There is a basic recipe for canning brunswick stew in the 1931 Canning Fruits and Vegetables (Extension Circular No. 114).  The same (or similar) recipes appear in the 1929 and 1935 editions.  The 1936 Food Preparation for 4-H Club Members (Extension Circular No. 209) has a menu for community meals that includes brunswick stew.  Also in a 1936 report of home demonstration work in North Carolina, summarizing the first 25 years of the program, Jane McKimmon indicated that Mecklenburg County club women got a good price for selling brunswick stew at their curb market.

North Carolina home demonstration curb market, 1939

The great website on American food during the 1930s, What America Ate, reproduces some the unpublished WPA Writers' Project America Eats research.  It includes a fictionalized account of a brunswick stew feast for people curing tobacco.  The article shows this food in an interesting social and cultural context that is now largely absent.   

Our Rare & Unique Digital Collections website provides access to a number of Extension publications and reports that mention brunswick stew.  To access the print versions, please contact the Special Collections Research Center.


Addition, October 8, 2018

I found another brunswick stew recipe in Favorite Foods from Faculty Kitchens, the 1974 cookbook of NC State's Woman's Club.  No squirrel meat in this one, but it is part of a menu for dinner for 50 people!  This had been contributed by Edith Barrier McGlamery (1916-2010), who was an agent with NC Cooperative Extension and an inductee into the Jane S. McKimmon Hall of Fame.    

Brunswick stew recipe for 50 people, from the 1974 NC State Woman's Club cookbook.

Edith McGlamery, contributor of a 50-person brunswick stew recipe in the 1974 Woman's Club cookbook.

I also discovered some great photos of a brunwick-stew fundraiser in Mebane, NC, taken by Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographer Marion Wolcott Post in October 1940.  We don't hold copies of these images in Special Collections, but the original FSA negatives are held by the Library of Congress.