Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I HEART...Camp Stew

Everybody loves Wednesday, right?
The week's half over.  The weekend is on the way.
What's not to love?
Each Wednesday, I want to share something with you
that I absolutely love and can't live without! 
A few weeks ago, I told you that I "camped out" for the first time.  Granted, it was in the backyard, a mere 25 feet off our deck.  And I made Gerald leave the flood lights on.  Just in case.  But I was in a tent.  Therefore, I was CAMPING!

I have spent the better part of my 44 years on this earth avoiding anything that remotely resembles or even reminds me of camping.  CAMPgrounds, CAMPaign fundraisers, CAMPhor oil, sCAMPS, camp town ladies sing this song, do da, do da!  Well, you get the idea.

But this time of year, I start craving CAMP STEW!  It's not hard to make.  It freezes great and thaws in a snap.  It's great to have on hand for those nights when you don't have the time (or the energy) to cook.  It's a favorite in our house.  Put it on the stove to warm it up and I guarantee they'll come running yelling "when's supper?"!
Before we get to my recipe, let me give you a little background.  Outside of Alabama, it's known as Brunswick Stew.  But here's where it really gets interesting.  Ask a Virginian and they'll say it originated in Brunswick County, VA, in 1828, when a state legislator's chef concocted the recipe while on a hunting trip.  Ask any Georgia peach and she'll swear her recipe is the original coming from the town of Brunswick, GA.  After all, there's an old stew pot there, near St. Simons Island, that has an iron plaque stating it was first made there in 1898.  While I would love to support my Southern friends directly to the east, Virginia legend does have 70 years on them.  And if that's not enough, a recipe in a 1942 cookbook claims that it was one of Queen Victoria's favorite recipes and came from Braunschweig, Germany! 
Who knows?!  Most people in Alabama just call it Camp Stew.  Oh, and dee-licious.  If you google Alabama Camp Stew, you'll most likely find a recipe calling for cans of shredded Castleberry brand pork, chicken and beef.  And I will admit, that's the way I first made it.  But one day, I had cooked a Boston butt in the crock pot for Sunday lunch.  We ate it roast-style for lunch that day and shredded with barbeque sauce on buns the next night.  But I still had a TON of meat leftover.  I decided to make camp stew.  I didn't want to run to the store so I made it with what I had on hand.  It was a hit!  So my famous Camp Stew recipe was born.  It's not hard to make.  Just takes a little time and preparation.  But the payback is SOOOO worth it! 
Missy's Camp Stew
(Recipe circa 2002.  Just in case anybody wants to put a plaque
on my crockpot one day in memoriam.
This recipe is that good!)   
Start with a nice Boston butt, large enough to be worth it, but small enough to fit in your crockpot.  Season it liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  Sear it on both sides in a Dutch oven, then transfer it to your crockpot.  Cook on low overnight or at least 10 hours.  I usually put it on before bed and then turn it off in the morning when I get up and let it sit and cool enough to pick.  Be sure not to add any liquid when you put it in the crockpot.  As you can see below, it will release a lot of juice on its own.

Once it has cooled, remove any large pockets of fat and then shred it with a fork.  Set aside.  Be sure to skim any fat from the pork juices and reserve them.  Yes, there's lots of fat on a Boston butt.  That's why it's so yummy!  I just leave it on for flavor while cooking.
Peel and dice a couple of russet potatoes and a large yellow onion.  Add more potatoes if your family really likes them.  (Don't tell them about the onions if they're picky.  They'll never know they're there!)

Dump two 28 oz cans of petite diced tomatoes and one 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes in a large stock pot and add potatoes.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover.  Cook until the potatoes are fork tender.  Maybe 15-20 minutes.  Don't let them get mushy.

Once your potatoes are done, add your canned veggies.  Be sure NOT to drain the juices.  I add two cans of corn, two cans of creamed corn, and two cans of baby lima beans (or butterbeans).  I also throw in about a cup of ketchup, a cup of my favorite barbeque sauce and a liberal "squirt" of yellow mustard.  Mix well.
 Now it's time to add your pork.  Stir this in gently, mixing well.  Be careful to keep it on low and stir occasionally so it doesn't stick.  I like to let it "cook" for at least an hour or so.  That way, the flavors really have time to get to know each other.  Finally, add a bottle of French dressing and then season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Don't know why I add the dressing last.
It's just the way I roll.)
If it is still a little too thick (and it should be pretty thick- it's stew!),
just add a little bit of the pork juices to thin and add flavor.

I like to serve this with broccoli-cheese cornbread if we're having company, but Gerald's favorite way to eat it is with saltine crackers.  Either way, it's divine!
The great thing about this recipe is that it makes a lot.
I let it cool and then place meal-sized portions into freezer bags.
I use my ladle to do this since I know that 1 1/2 ladles is the perfect amount for me and Gerald and the kids just need a smaller ladle.  Perfect portions, every time!
I stack them flat on a cookie sheet to freeze, then once they're solid, I "file" them vertically in my freezer basket.  Takes up less space that way!  These are great to have on hand when you need a quick supper or need something to send to someone else needing a meal.
You can see I made a batch in early October.  Yes, it took a little time, but I got seven meals out of one recipe.  (We ate one that night for supper!)  I have a package thawing right now for a late supper tonight when we get home from church.  The high today is 50, so it will be so warm and delicious when we get home. 
Camp Stew or Brunswick Stew?
Doesn't really matter what you call it.
Just make it.  Soon!
Be sure to let me know what you think!
I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!
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