We always grew up hearing stories about the Scots-Irish settlers who came to Kentucky, bringing with them the skills to build the rock fences which roll over our bluegrass hills.
Let’s take a moment to remember the slaves who were also used to build these unique Bluegrass landmarks. A large number were able to learn a valuable trade through the difficult work, and became master stonemasons under the tutelage of the Scots-Irish immigrants.
But while the rock fences are beautiful, and uniquely Kentucky, one of our favorite Scots-Irish products that made it over the pond is BURGOO! (MOKRT note: We’ve just realized this makes two food posts in a row, but, you know what? Burgoo for dinner and pie for dessert! More burgoo and pie for all!)
Some accounts say that it was actually a French chef,Gustave Jaubert, who first cooked burgoo for General John Hunt Morgan, and that the stew is now known by the name ‘burgoo’ because Morgan misheard Jaubert’s pronunciation of “bird stew.”
The account we’re most familiar with, is of the early Scots-Irish immigrants throwing whatever was readily available into a pot (squirrel, venison, beef, lamb, pheasant, pork…whatever) along with whatever vegetables you had grown or preserved, maybe some gathered herbs and root vegetables, and just letting the cast iron pot simmer over the fire until everything was tender enough to eat.
And you know what? The recipe hasn’t much changed. Burgoo (and stews in general, really) is great for exactly that reason: throw whatever you have (or whatever you can afford) into a pot, let it simmer and cook, and enjoy the fruits of your, decidedly non-laborious, labor.
If you’re looking for a recipe that’s a bit fancier-schmancier, we’ve got one for you below. But, for now, let us say, that on this most Guinness-soaked of holidays, if you want a meal that will carry you through that Irish pub crawl (be responsible, please!), and is easy to make even if you started drinking pints of Guinness a bit early, this is your jam!
from Out of Kentucky Kitchens by Marion Flexner
(MOKRT note: Tandy Ellis was a Character. Capital ‘C.’ You might see him again in a future post.)
- 2 lbs. beef cut from the shank (soup bone included)
- 1/2 lb. lamb (baby lamb, not mutton)
- 1 medium-sized chicken
- 2 C diced potatoes
- Red pepper to taste (1 small pod, or more to taste)
- 3 C corn cut from the cob (young field corn is best)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 “toe” of garlic
- 2 C diced onions
- 1 C fresh butterbeans or 1 pkg. frozen butterbeans
- 3 carrots, diced
- 1 C minced parsley
- 2 green peppers, diced, seeds removed
- 2 C okra, diced or cut in rings
- 4 qts. water, or more if soup cooks too thick
- 12 tomatoes or 1 qt. can
Put the beef, lamb, and dismembered chicken in a soup kettle with water, salt, black and red pepper. An old-fashioned iron kettle was specified by Mr. Ellis, but any heavy aluminum or metal kettle with a tight-fitting lid will do. Let this come to a hard boil, reduce the heat, and simmer about 2 hours with the lid on. Add potatoes, onions, and at intervals of 10 minutes, the butterbeans, carrots, green peppers. Then add corn and simmer for 2 hours or until mixture seems very thick. Watch carefully so that it does not stick. Add more water from time to time if necessary, but use as little as possible. Add okra and tomatoes and the garlic and let simmer another 1 1/2 hours, or until these vegetables too are done and blended with the others. Mr. Ellis insisted that the stew should cook for 7 hours, but 4 to 5 hours should be quite sufficient. As soon as soup is taken from stove, stir the parsley into it. This soup improves by standing and can be kept for a long time in the refrigerator. It is delicious when reheated. Serve with corn pones and follow it with a piece of pie—a most satisfactory repast, Kentucky style.