Camp Stew for Today's Southern Cook

The brewing of Camp and Brunswick Stews.

This is a stew similar to the Brunswick one, you know, the one from the cities and counties of the same name and the riff that caused many hard feelings between Georgia and Virginia. Feuding between the two has been going on since the 1800's and I don't reckon it's gonna end anytime soon. Each one of 'em claims to have the best. Why, there's contests and cook-offs to prove the winner each year. And after a recent victory in Virgina, a winner declared "I guess it's only right for Georgia to come up here and aspire to claim Brunswick Stew as theirs," and with a sly pause adds, "one day when they learn how to cook it, we will think about it." Georgia replies with "Yeah, well, something went terribly wrong. I should have known better than to trust y'all with the water." And thus the feuding starts all over again.

Now North Carolina tried to get in on the ruckus but I don't recall much of anything coming from it, at least, I don't think anyone got hurt. Not much anyway. I guess Camp Stew is the term made everywhere-else other than that from the fighting states. Camp stew is to us, well, our Brunswick Stew. Camp stew began similar, much like the first Brunswick did back in 1828 when "Uncle Jimmy", the cook for Dr. Creed Haskins prepared a meal for his hunting party near Nottoway River in Virginia. Brewed over an open fire in a large cauldron over the course of many long hours, the stew consisted of mainly onion, a few spices and the catch of the day: Squirrel meat was the offering to the cook. Over time, the buckshot loaded squirrel was replaced with larger game which was a bit more friendlier to the teeth. Nowadays, out of convenience I suppose, we use meats from the market like chicken, pork, lamb, beef and maybe, if the cook is lucky, a little wild game for that woodsy taste. In other words, we throw whatever we can into the pot.

This Camp Stew is just that and created in the same spirit of our beloved gumbo. It is a pot of hearty goodness that is made with whatever is thrown into it. I like to use up left-over bits of grilled steak, scraps of smoked ham and of course, lots of chunks of dark chicken meat for added flavor. You can use part of a pork loin and finely chopped cooked smoked bacon which will taste good too. The vegetables can vary but in the spirit of truism, try to keep potato, corn and lima beans in the mixture. Enjoy!

My New Camp Stew
6 to 8 servings

8 to 10 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, quartered
3 smashed garlic pods
2 quarts water
1 cup diced smoked ham
1/2 cup finely chopped grilled steak
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 -16 oz diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup whole corn kernels
1 cup baby lima beans
1 cup fresh green beans cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium potato, small cubed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins Steak Sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Trappey's brand)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large stockpot, add chicken, onion, garlic, water and a little salt. Heat over medium high heat and at simmer, reduce heat to medium low. Cook until chicken is tender and easy to pull apart, about 1 hour. Remove chicken and allow to cool. Strain stock reserving the liquid and discard the solids. Tear chicken into large or bite-size pieces.

Return stock to the pot adding enough water or chicken broth to make 2 quarts. Heat over medium high heat and add ham and steak (or whatever meats you are using) and bring to a low simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes.

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, sherry and increase heat to medium. Stir in remaining ingredients (except chicken) and allow to come back to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook about 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir in chicken and allow to heat thoroughly.

Serve hot with saltine crackers for a really classic way to enjoy this dish or with hot buttered cornbread.


  1. Just the name "camp stew" gets the ole saliva glands working. I enjoyed your commentary on the feud.


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