Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Burgoo Soup Story

Burgoo is a hearty soup made from mutton, chicken, and a variety of vegetables. No two cooks prepare it the same way and most keep their recipes a closely guarded secret.

One tradition says that burgoo came to this country from Wales. It found it’s way to the Kentucky frontier through Virginia, but Daviess Countians have long claimed that the Welsh-Virginian dish was a low quality soup, not burgoo.

The evolution of burgoo, and its contents in its early days, seem markedly similar to those of Brunswick Stew. Burgoo developed in the early 1800’s as a squirrel stew with vegetables and it was first served to crowds at political rallies and later at church picnics.

Burgoo experts disagree about what meats actually go into burgoo. Each area of Kentucky, and even individual burgoo cooks use different types of meat in their burgoo. I prefer to use mutton, beef, and chicken. Mutton gives burgoo a wild game like flavor that holds its own against the red pepper and vegetables in our burgoo. Mutton gives the burgoo the same oomph that squirrel and other wild game formerly provided.

About the only point on which burgoo experts agree is the consistency of the soup. A good burgoo should be thick, but still soupy. This is the reason for the long, slow cooking time. It gives the burgoo time to thicken naturally.

The Burgoo Recipe
4 lb. Mutton
1-3 lb. Chicken
3/4 lb. Cabbage Ground or Chopped Fine
3/4 lb. Onion Ground or Chopped Fine
5 lb. Potatoes Peeled and Diced
2-17 oz. Can Corn (we like Shoe Peg)
or 2 Cups Fresh Corn
3/4 Cup Tomato Catsup
3-10 3/4 oz Can Tomato Puree
Juice of One Lemon
3/4 Cup Distilled Vinegar
1/2 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 1/2 Tablespoons Salt (or more to taste)
2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Cayenne (more if you like)

Boil mutton in enough water to cover. Cook until tender about 2-3 hours. Throw out the broth and bones. Chop meat fine. Set aside. Boil chicken in 2 gallons of water in large kettle until tender. Remove chicken, add potatoes, cabbage, onion, corn, catsup and one gallon of water to chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, chop chicken meat, discarding bones and skin. When potatoes are tender add chicken, mutton, lemon, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and puree. Let this simmer for two hours or longer, stirring often from the bottom as it thickens.

Yield: 3 Gallons Burgoo is often served with bread, but crackers or corn bread are also good with burgoo.

If any of y'all get's a wild hair and tries this, I'd love to hear how it turns out. You should know... When I say sometimes we cook it longer than 2 hours... I mean some folks cook it for a day or so...