I got to thinking about this question while grocery shopping. It was actually this; what can we eat, that’s healthy, and filling for the next two weeks? I make a menu and then check to see what I need to make those items. Sometimes though it’s a bit difficult when the prices fluctuate so drastically. For instance, the price of beef is crazy, so I limit what I buy in beef, but I can substitute pork in a lot of cases so we eat pork, and chicken and turkey. Anyway to get back to my point I thought, “oh it’s been cold and stew is a good dish to make in cold weather”, it also met the other criteria of being filling and healthy. But the question, “what kind of stew should I make came into my head?” There is beef stew, but like I said I’m not using as much beef lately, and then there is always a nice Chicken stew, or chicken and dumpling (yes those went on the menu too), or a pork stew or pea soup. All of which are on the months menu board, but then Eureka! Mulligan Stew! You might be surprised to find that you have a recipe for Mulligan Stew in this months edition of the TBA because this article and the recipe are a twofer.
A Mulligan Stew is kind of catchall term for everything but the kitchen sink type of stew. Most recipes call for beef in their mulligans but you can use just about any meat you like. Just so long as you have a nice thick gravy to go along with it, you are fine. I recommend using a chuck roast if you are going to use beef, trimmed and cut into chunks there is nothing finer. I like to use something with a big bone in it to increase the flavor of the broth, but can be removed toward the end of cooking. So a nice bone in Pork butt, or a bone in chuck roast are perfect. I don’t recommend using the bones of any fowl as they are finer bones and inevitably some of them get left in the pot.
These stews typically have tons of vegetables in them making them a perfect stew for a family with leftovers to boot. But back to the point of the story. Mulligan stews and others like it were and are to this day used to feed a ton of people. After a barn raising, or a political rally or even a church meeting; wherever a goodly amount of people were, you could find these kinds of stews being served. Five of which come to mind.
There is the Mulligan stew which seems to have some very imprecise beginnings. It’s very close to an Irish stew which includes mutton, potatoes, and vegetables. It can also be thought to be connected to Ireland somehow with it’s name, “Mulligan”, which is used in Ireland as a generic and sometimes derogatory word to describe an Irishman. It’s like saying, “He threw a Mulligan of a ball in that inning of baseball”. It’s never been proven that anyone with the name Mulligan was ever involved in any outrageous events that could be attributed to the word or name of Mulligan. But I for one love the stew.
Brunswick is also the name of another kitchen sink stew. Brunswick, North Carolina, Brunswick County, Brunswick Virginia, and Brunswick, Georgia all lay claim to this particular stew. But as far as food historians (yes there are such things/people as food historians), believe that all these claims are pretty much poppycock. They say this because the main ingredients, meat wise, of this particular stew are squirrel and rabbit, something that the Native Americans have been stewing long before the names of these places existed. All the same if you are making a rabbit or squirrel stew then you are making a Brunswick stew.
Now if you have ever been to Kentucky around the time of the big derby, you have more than likely had a Burgoo stew. It’s a pretty big deal, with the ladies dressed in tea length dresses, with their gloves and hats and the men all dressed in their suits and ties. All wondering around with their mint juleps in hand you’ll see big kettles of Burgoo simmering away. These big copper kettles are full of ground meat and vegetables. The Origins of this stew date back to the 19th century, and was invented by a very crafty Confederate army cook. He put some potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage in a pot with some onions and twenty-nine blackbirds, three crows, a goose, several hens, and a shoat (which for those of you that don’t know what a shoat is, it’s a very young pig) all into a powder keg and set it to simmer. Thus you have a Burgoo stew. Now you won’t see the cooks of today adding crows and blackbirds to their Burgoo stew, but you will see ground meat of all sorts heading into the pot. These kettles are so big that they are stirred with a paddle! I spent some time in Kentucky at the time of the derby and got to enjoy the experience. And that stew was excellent!
Now around Green Bay, Wisconsin you might find yourself eating a Booya stew. Belgian immigrants that settled into the area during the 1850’s made this stew. And it is very popular even today. It’s made with oxtails, beef, chicken, cabbage, beans, kohlrabi and rutabagas.
Last but not least of our kitchen sink stews would be the Slumgullion stew. A slumgullion is a word that is often used to describe the muddy slough left behind after gold-panning. In the San Juan mountains of Colorado, a slow-moving landslide so reminded the miners of the stew they called slumgullion, that they dubbed it the Slumgullion Slide, which is still visible from the nearby Slumgullion Pass. That is a mighty thick stew to be sure.
Barley is something that I haven’t mentioned here as an ingredient in these stews but it was a very popular ingredient in soups and stews at one time and its beginning to make a resurgence in the United States. Barley, is mostly used for two things in the United States. Beer and Animal feed. A century or more ago it was a staple found on most pantry shelves. It was a cheap and ubiquitous pantry staple and used in all three meals of the day. Barley is still an inexpensive item and it’s beginning to make a come back. You can find quick cooking barley, pearl barley and hull-less barley in your local supermarkets now a days. I like to use pearl barley in my soups and stews and often use it in place of rice. It has a nice nutty flavor and adds richness to your dishes.
So we’ve discussed some of the kitchen sink stews and if you want to try your hand at a Mulligan stew you’ll find the recipe in the recipe section of TBA. Happy eating!