Sunday, October 26, 2008


NOTE: I will post this here until my daughter brings her much better page on burgoo back up.


This is a dish that is traditionally served at horse races, church picnics, political rallies, and other such out-of-door sporting events. Recipes will vary with the chef, as well as with his or her location in the state; with mutton replacing the veal in Western Kentucky, and with game (such as squirrel) being added to the pot any time and anywhere in the Commonwealth, when it is available. Speaking of the pot, it is best that it is big, black, and of iron, and is heated on a open hardwood fire suitable for the long, slow cooking that makes Burgoo unique.

This particular recipe is traditional for the Bluegrass area of Central Kentucky, and was taken from a collection of Woodford County recipes published some time ago by one of the Presbyterian churches there.

I have added some notes which are based on my experience, and the quantities are greatly reduced in this version of the recipe, in order to make it suitable for use in back yard cooking. However, for the best flavor, Burgoo should really be cooked over an open fire, and in a big iron pot!


2 pounds lean beef, with bone
1 medium hen, dressed
1 pound veal, (replace with lamb for Western Kentucky flavor)
4 quarts water
6 ears of young corn
2 cups of diced raw potato
2 cups of diced raw onion
2 cups of lima beans
3 carrots, diced
2 cups of okra, sliced to the size of the other vegetables
1 clove of garlic, or more to taste
1 dried red pepper, or more to taste
1 cup of minced parsley
1 quart of chopped tomatoes, with juice
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 green peppers, diced


Boil the meat until it is falling apart. de-bone it and return it to the pot (it can be pressure-cooked, if one is available, saving you about three hours). Sauté the onions in bacon fat and add to the pot. Add the potatoes, carrots, and celery, bring up to heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the limas and cook for 2 hours. Add the okra, peppers, tomatoes, and the red pepper(s), and cook 1 hour longer. Add the corn and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve 15 to 20 hungry people!!

1. I think that cabbage and pork are not happy in Burgoo.

2. Add up to 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon or so of Tabasco sauce to this quantity, along with the lamb for a Western Kentucky flavor.

3, When the real cooking starts, after the limas have been added, constant attention and frequent stirring are necessary to prevent scorching; the thickness of the mixture, and the natural sugars that it contains make this easily possible. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!! Or your pot may be confiscated by a Squadron of the KENTUCKY STATE MILITIA, and your cooking spoons ceremoniously broken, to the beat of muffled drums!

4. If this recipe is increased 4 or 5 times, it will fit in a 25-gallon lard rendering pot or "wash kettle” as we call them back home and will serve over 100 people, with suitable side dishes.

5. Burgoo freezes well, and you can always send your guests home with roaders of it in plastic containers, if you have any leftovers. It has been my experience however, that usually one or two quarts are all that remains in the bottom of the pot after I had served about 100 people.

6. You may most easily define Burgoo as, "What Virginia’s Brunswick Stew wants to be when it grows up..."

Good Luck,

John E. McClure, Jr.
Commissioned by Albert Benjamin Chandler, Governor of
The 168th YEAR of the COMMONWEALTH.