Kentucky Burgoo

or “Why I’m Never Canning Stew Again”

Oh my, what was a thinking? I found this recipe online (link below) and I thought “Hey, that sounds like it might be good!” I’m not a huge fan of cabbage or vegetables in general, but I’ve been trying to branch out and try different things so I thought I’d give this recipe a try.

It has about 25 different ingredients, including over 15lbs of meat. It didn’t occur to me until much later that 1lb of meat equals 1 pint. And meat was barely half of this recipe. I thought this recipe sounded pretty easy, the instructions read “Prep the veggies,” so that couldn’t be that hard right? Wrong! Besides the fact that the recipe did not include an estimate for the expected yield, the instructions were pretty…open, and non specific. I had to make due and figure things out on my own, which wasn’t that hard – but again, pretty annoying for something that is relatively new to canning and had no idea what to expect.

So, suffice it to say, this was a learning experience for me and will probably not be something I ever cook again due to the sheer amount of work involved. But if for some reason you find yourself with a freezer full of meat and veggies that you have no idea what to do with, this would be a good way to preserve them for future quick and easy meals (and nothing about canning this is quick or easy!!)

Anyways, here is my adapted recipe with the yield I produced.

EXPECTED YIELD: 26 Pints PLUS 6 Quarts ( approximately 20 Quarts total)

1 Whole Chicken
16lbs of Pork bone in shoulder
5lbs of Beef Steak
40oz dried mixed beans
1 bag of carrots
2 heads of cabbage
8 stalks of celery
3 green bell peppers
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
7 small onions
6 Jalapenos (seeded)
5lbs of potatoes
minced garlic
4oz lemon juice
2 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
4 cups corn
3T cayenne pepper
3T Red Pepper flakes
32oz Ketchup (with no thickeners)
8oz Apple Cider Vinegar
8oz Worcestershire Sauce
12oz Molasses

1) Combine all the meat into a large stock pot and fill with water by a couple inches. Boil for 2 hours until meat is tender.
Notes: Well, I thought I had a large stock pot. But only 1 of my pork shoulders would fit in each pot so I had to bring out a second pot that I normally use to boil water (for scouring fleeces with) and put the 2nd shoulder in it. I then put the chicken in one pot with one slab of pork, and the beef in the other. The original recipe called for a lamb shank – and seeing how I have never purchased lamb before and couldn’t find lamb that didn’t cost an arm and a leg at my grocery store, I went without the lamb and added extra pork and beef.

2) Prep your veggies while the meat is cooking!
Notes: You wouldn’t think this step would take 2+ hours, but I assure you it does. Here are my step by step instructions below – 
A) Set the 40oz of beans on the stove with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, and then remove from heat and let rest for 30-45 minutes.
B) Wash and peel carrots. I sliced them into circles and set in a large bowl that I would be using to collect the other veggies. I actually used closer to 2 bags of carrots because I omitted the frozen okra that the original recipe called for.
 C) Rinse off cabbage, cut in half (top to bottom) and then rest flat side on the cutting board and slice into strips. Your cabbage will make pretty little ribbons this way. Add your ribbony cabbage to the veggie bowl.
 D) Rinse your celery and cut off the ends. I only like to use the green part of the stalk – I just think it tastes better. I then sliced my celery into little U shapes and added it to the veggie bowl.
E) Rinse your peppers (heck, you should be rinsing all your veggies – so go ahead and do that to the rest of them so I don’t have to keep repeating myself). I cut the tops off my peppers and then used a smooth knife to scrap out all the insides and the seeds. I was originally going to try to cut them into those pretty little strips like you see in fajitas, but at this point the heat from the two pots of meat boiling on my stove was getting to me so I cheated here. I chopped my peppers into medium sized chunks and tossed it into my mini-chopper to let it do the rest. Then I dumped them into my veggie bowl with all the rest.
F) Next I peeled 7 small onions and also ran them through my mini chopper. Hopefully you know how to remove the skin from an onion, so I won’t go into detail about that. I will say however that I have NO IDEA how many onions actually made it into my Burgoo because I forgot to count. No joke. I had bought a small bag of small onions from the grocery store and I didn’t bother counting them (they were sold by weight) and I didn’t bother keeping track of how many I had cut. So I stopped somewhere between 5 and 10 and decided I had enough. Oops.
G) I cut the tops off my jalapenos and then sliced them in half length wise so that I could scrape the seeds out. I wasn’t super duper careful and I’m sure a couple seeds ended up in my final stew, but oh well. I also cut this into chunks and sent them through my mini-chopper.
H) The potatoes were what my dear husband worked on while I was cutting the rest of the veggies. I have no idea how many pounds of potatoes we used, again somewhere between 5-10. We had a 10 lb bag and had already used many potatoes out of it, and we used most of what was left to add to the Burgoo. Hubby peeled them and I later would slice them while he carved the meat.
I) Minced Garlic. Hmmm. I have no idea what that is suppose to be a measurement of. So, since I was getting really lazy at this point, I skipped the fresh garlic step and later would sprinkle garlic powder over my stock pots and call it an even exchange.

3) Now that all the veggies are prepped it should be about time to start carving the meat. You need to reserve the stock in the pots (that is, the flavored water, because it becomes an important part of the stew), so be careful as  you are removing the meat and draining the fat.
Notes: We ended up doing this in several parts. First, hubby and I each grabbed a large spoon and/or fork and together managed to pull the huge pork butt out of the pot. Then the other piece of meat. My husband was designated the carver of meat because my arms were kinda tired at this point from all the veggie chopping and peeling. He also seemed to be quite good at it too. Second, after the meat was sitting on the cutting board, I used a slotted spoon to scoop out any large pieces of fat or flesh that were just floating around. Next hubby took the pot of pork/beef/chicken stock and poured into into another large pot, through a colander. The colander did a great job catching the loose pieces of fat and making them easy to remove. Third, after all the fat was removed we poured the stock back into the large stock pot. Then hubby set to work carving up the meat and I finished with my prep work. 

4) At this point I added all of the veggies to the pot that we had just drained and removed the meat from. (while hubby is still chopping and carving the meat and removing the bones) I then added the fresh squeezed lemon juice, canned tomatoes, corn, and ketchup. The corn we actually canned the night before, but that will be another post. With the ketchup it’s important to get one that doesn’t contain thickeners, we used one that was also HFCS free as well.
Notes: Now it was at this time that I realized I had a problem. You see, after I added all these veggies and some of the seasonings, my pot was very close to full and I realized there was no room for me to add the meat back in once hubby was done carving. So I made the decision that we would also reserve the liquid from the  2nd pot, and I’d add the remaining ingredients in there. And that’s what I did. There was some juggling of meat chunks and stock pots and colanders but we eventually got it so that the water/stock in the second pot was strained, the meat chunks were in it, and the rest of the meat was on the cutting board waiting for it’s turn. So into the 2nd pot I added the apple cider vinegar, the Worcestershire, and the molasses. I also added 1.5T of Cayenne Pepper to each pot (for 3T total) and 1.5T of Red Pepper Flakes to each pot (for  3T total). And then I sprinkled a generous amount of garlic powder over the top of each, and gave it all a generous stir. 

5) Add the rest of the meat back into the pot after it’s all carved up and free of bones. Or in my case, into the 2nd pot since my 1st pot was full of veggies.
Notes: At this point I pulled out the whole chicken from last night’s batch of chicken broth that I had canned. I picked the meat off the bones (it was literally falling off anyways) and tossed that into the meat pot as well. 

6) Layer the bottoms of the jars with your soaked beans. I put about an 1″ of beans in each pint jar. We ran out of beans wayyyy before we ran out of veggies and meat, so I would definitely cook a lot more beans if you want to be sure that you have enough beans for all your jars. Doubling the recipe for the beans should be sufficient but you may wish to cook more.

7) Keeping in mind that we had the meat and the veggies in separate pots, we filled the jars as follows:
Using a slotted spoon, we placed 1 spoonful of meat followed by 1 spoonful of veggies in each jar. Then with a ladle, I added 1 scoop of the veggie broth, and 1 scoop of the meat broth to each jar and repeated as needed until full. The important part is to maintain the 1″ headspace.
Notes: I tried VERY hard to make sure I didn’t over fill my jars and pretty much every single one of them leaked during processing. They all sealed successfully in the end, however (thank god!) but it made one heck of a mess in my kitchen and now I have to go wipe down each jar with a vinegar soaked towel to get rid of the stickiness!

8) Once your jars are filled, wipe down the rims with a clean, vinegar soaked towel. The vinegar helps cut the fat and makes it easier to clean off. You want to make sure that your rim is as clean as possible for a good seal. Then add the lids and rings, and tighten to “finger tip tight”.

9) Process in canner for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts, at 10lbs of pressure (adjusting as needed for altitude).

And there you have it! Burgoo! A once in a lifetime cooking event that I am never partaking in again! Hooray! We ended up with 26 pints of this stuff plus 6 quarts. I actually had to run to Walmart and buy more jars because I didn’t have enough on hand, which is why there are a mix of sizes. If I would have realized how much food I would actually have been making I would have purchased all quart jars from the beginning and saved myself the hassle. We had a lot of the liquid left over and I contemplated canning it so that I could it more “stew” like when I went to eat it but I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I gave up and tossed what was left after all the meat and veggies were gone.
I also made the mistake of pre-cooking my veggies too much before they were canned. Best results would have been for them to be lightly soaked in the hot stock pot and still mostly raw, but since I had to run to the store and buy more jars, things took a little longer than expected so some of my veggies are a little mushier than I think they should be.

As for the Burgoo itself…I think it tastes ok. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Hubby thinks my own bitterness is interfering with my ability to taste things clearly. It’s not bad, but I’m not sure it’s up to my usual standards of rich, good until the last drop, yumminess. I think it may be the beef. And I think I’m just going to accept the fact that I don’t like beef flavored things. (I love a good steak btw) I’ll have to write more about it latter, maybe in a few weeks when I’ve gotten over my frustration and can look at it more objectively.

In the mean time, I’m going to enjoy a jar of my canned cherries because those DID turn out deliciously.

If anyone else commits to this massive undertaking, please let me know how it goes and what your experience is like! Here is the link to the original recipe: