01 June 2011

1 June - Kentucky; Burgoo

Today in 1792, Kentucky, which at that time consisted of three counties of Virginia rolled into one, ratified the Constitution to become the 15th state, formally known as the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

This is the Bluegrass State, the Dark and Bloody Ground,  the land of Unbridled Spirit, the favored hunting grounds of the Shawnee and Cherokee, followed by the Long Hunters (so called because they went on long hunts and were gone a long time).  Through the Cumberland Gap in the south and via the Ohio River in the north, settlers poured in to the rich farmlands and coal fields.  Some stayed, some moved on.  More moved in.

The state is divided into five regions, and you can find a whole vacation's worth of things to do in any one of them.  This is horse-lovers country; everyone knows about the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville.  Aficionados of the National Sport know Louisville as the home of the Slugger and make pilgrimages to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.

For history buffs, this is the original land of Lincoln, before the family moved north.  In the Civil War, the state was ostensibly pro-Union and tried to remain neutral, but several battlefields and some continuing feuds say otherwise.  More peaceful pursuits can be found at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.  

Explore the outdoors.  Kentucky has one National Park (Mammoth Cave, the world's longest cave system), two National Recreation Areas, National Forests, and National Wildlife Refuges, 52 State Parks and historic sites, and 82 Wildlife Management Areas.  When you get tired of your pioneering spirit, there are always civilized amenities nearby - golf, shopping, nightlife (and showers).

And for those who don't mind sacrificing a few brain cells, there are the Bourbon tours.

Visit the Kentucky Tourism website for more adventures.

[One branch of my family moved from western Virginia through Boone's Cumberland Gap to the rich lands of the "Pennyrile", and from there to all points of the compass - except back East.  They left that to me.  One of these days, I'll mosey that way myself.]

BURGOO is a traditional stew associated with Kentucky, but as with my own ancestors, it traveled north, west, and south to regions outside the state.  It is usually made in very large quantities for social gatherings such as political rallies and church suppers.  This recipe will feed at least 20 people of varying appetites, or you can cut the recipe in half.

For the full recipe, you will need a 20-quart stock pan or two 10-quart stock pans.  If using the latter, divide the ingredients more or less equally between the two.

Traditionally, this contains three or more different kinds of meat, which can be beef, lamb, veal, mutton, pork, squirrel, moose, chicken or other fowl, veal shanks and beef shin bones.  The amount of each is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is 1 - 2 pounds of each meat that you choose.  My preferred recipe uses 2 pounds of beef stew meat, 2 pounds of pork shoulder, and 5 pounds of chicken.

[Of course, if you really want to be authentic, you need to add squirrel.  Two pounds of squirrel will probably wipe out the entire population in your yard, if not on your street.  Since you probably have ready-made enticements in the form of bird-feeders, it shouldn't be too hard to catch enough for a recipe.]

[No, the Widow does not care to be authentic.]

Cut up the chicken (you will be removing the meat from the bones later, so cutting it into manageable pieces is just to make things easier.)

(Optional: Heat 3 tablespoons of bacon fat or cooking oil in the pan and brown the meat).  Put the cut-up chicken and meat into the pan and cover with cold water.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt.  Bring it to a full boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 - 4 hours, or until the meat is falling from the bones.

Meanwhile, peel and chop 6 potatoes and 6 onions.  Chop 1 clove of garlic and enough green cabbage to equal 2 - 3 cups.  Dice 6 carrots, 2 green peppers, and 4 stalks of celery with tops.  Slice fresh or frozen okra to equal 2 cups.  All of these, along with 2 - 3 cups of fresh or frozen lima beans and fresh or frozen kernel corn can be put in a bowl, as they will be added all together.

Remove the meat from the broth.  When meat is cool, remove and discard all bones and chicken skin.  Dice meat and chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to the broth.

Now add the vegetables to the pot along with 1 - 2 dashes each of cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer until thick, about 2 hours, stirring frequently at first, and nearly constantly as the stew thickens.  (Some recipes call for a thickening agent of 1 cup of flour mixed well with 1/2 cup of butter, stirred into the broth just before serving).

Serve with large pans of cornbread and pass the hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce for those who prefer a spicier Burgoo.

And if that is just too much, you can buy it here.