Burgoo is a big thing around here, but somehow I hadn’t heard of it. It’s a thick stew that’s traditional in Kentucky, especially at church festivals. (This 1900 postcard shows group burgoo preparation.) It’s even served at the Kentucky Derby alongside mint juleps.
The ingredients list spans the barnyard, with beef, chicken and pork. Vegetables include potatoes, corn and five kinds of beans; pickling spices and hot sauce are among the seasonings. The chef can substitute freely and toss in pretty much anything on hand, though, then cook it for a day or so.
Kathy’s recipe originally made 75 gallons. She cut it down but still ended up with enough for most of the tri-state area (and several lucky coworkers).
She had to do some research to adapt measures and cooking methods to modern times. For example, the recipe called for a “number 10 can” each of ketchup and tomatoes. A Google search gave the equivalent: 6 lbs, 6oz (that’s a lot of Heinz).
Apparently Kathy’s relatives got really excited about the cookoff. One family spent all Saturday together, some out back roasting meat and others inside peeling potatoes. (That clan won a ladle and bragging rights.)
A little good-natured cooking competition can spice up a ho-hum family reunion and beef up the family history element. Need help gathering and preparing old recipes? The December 2004 Family Tree Magazine features an article all about that, and FamilyTreeMagazine.com offers an excerpt plus a handy old-fashioned-to-new-fashioned measurement conversion guide.
And if you just have to make burgoo right now, here are some recipes.