Brunswick stew John Grisham style-perfect for frosty night


Wish you could taste the Brunswick stew I just cooked up on the stove. The recipe is from author John Grisham who said it was passed down from his wife’s great great grandmother who was named Indiana Jones. No kidding.

Indiana was from North Carolina where asking for a family recipe was tantamount to burping at the table. A real no no. But over the year’s the family was able to piece together the recipe while spying on her, I presume.

Grisham calls the stew “serious business” and I agree. It took me six hours, but the results were well worth it, plus, my kitchen smelled heavenly all day long. Since my vent- a-hood blows out the side of the house onto Green Street where there are lots of pedestrians, I had several people stop and ask what that heavenly smell was. I pleaded ignorance because I didn’t want to share.

stew 007

Brunswick stew is the cause of no small amount of controversy. Virginians claim it came from Brunswick County, Virginia. North Carolinians swear it came from their own Brunswick County. I really don’t care, but I do know that my ancestors (who came to Mississippi from South Carolina) could cook up a pretty mean pot of a similar stew.

Incidentally, the reason I selected today to make the stew was that while cleaning out the refrigerator last week, I ran across five or little containers of left over corn, butter beans along with a quarter bag of frozen hash browns. What a great way to use those little dabs of stuff.

Please note I DID NOT use okra. I love it fried, but the slimy stuff you see in gumbo and stews reminds me of something that has already been digested.

IN the recipe that follows – I list Grisham’s ingredients along with the amount I had on hand. This may be the first time in my life I didn’t have to go to the store before beginning my cooking.

Indiana Jones Brunswick Stew

2 chickens cut into pieces (I used two humongous chicken breasts)

5 large tomatoes peeled, and chopped (I used one can of stewed tomatoes)

4 cups of fresh kernal corn (I used one can)

4 medium potatoes, peeled and dcied (I used one red potato chopped and the hash browns left from who knows what)

4 stalks celery  (I omitted but I did cook the chicken breasts with some celery leaves)

2 large onions, thinly sliced – I used one large onion chopped)

2 cups of lima beans (I used i can of Kroger limas)

2 cups of sliced okra (ick – not in MY pot)

1 T salt

1 T ground black pepper

1 T red pepper

1 tsp. sugar (I skipped the sugar)

I also added one habanero pepper diced and some bottled roasted red pepper left over from something or another.


In large stock pot boil chickens (or breasts) over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer partially covered until chicken is falling off the bones and the broth is thick. This should take 2-3 hours. Cool and debone. Add vegetables (Not tomatoes yet) to the stock – season to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until potatose are tender – 20 minutes or so.

Add chicken to vegetables along with tomatoes. Bring to boil. Cover reduce heat and let simmer for three hours. Next time I’ll probably just dump the whole thing in my crock pot and forget it. Serve in bowl with cornbread. Wash down with sweet tea.

3 thoughts on “Brunswick stew John Grisham style-perfect for frosty night

  1. Emily,
    That sounds good, and apparently flexible since you weren’t a slave to the recipe, and it still came out so good.
    I would never have thought to use the frozen hash browns. Do you think the results using those are unique in any way, compared to regular potatoes? If the hash browns were a little crispy to start with, could you still get the crunch when eating the stew? If so, I think that must’ve been a big plus, was it? If so, I just might buy some special just for that added demension and use it in several other recipes as well. Maybe even in some of my brazing throw-togethers in which I would ordinarily just cut up a potato to use. By George, you are clever, not to mention resourceful!

    Thanks a bunch,

  2. This really was delicious. The hash browns left over in my freezer were the kind you buy at the grocery – already slivered up and raw. I think they added a lot to the stew because you really couldn’t identify what that was that gave the stew such “body.” Already fried hash browns would work too, but all that cooking would soften them up.

    Of course, I crumbled my corn bread up in the stew which made it even better. I had it for lunch and dinner and may repeat the menu today since it’s Fr-e-e-z-i-n-g! Had to put the heater in the greenhouse which means I’m about to take a bath in a room where my tooth brush is frozen on the lavatory! Oh, the joys of living in a drafty old house.

  3. Emily,
    Wish I could share our weather with ya’ll. We’ll have the same perfect temperatures this week as the southern third of Florida. I’m hoping it stays that way for the rest of the Fall, at least.
    Some time in the future, I just may get me a summer job in Alaska, and a winter one in southern Florida. Wanna join me? Thanks for the additional potato information.

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