Creative Cookery



 

KENTUCKY BURGOO (UNITED STATES)

Since it's Derby time in Louisville, I might as well post an old Bluegrass recipe for Burgoo. This one is actually a real, old-fashioned recipe passed down from my grandfather, which I copied from old notes and summarized for an article a while back. Iced tea and beer are traditionally served with Burgoo; wine doesn't quite seem to fit, although a light, Beaujolais-style red would certainly do. It involves a fair amount of work, but you couldn't be more authentic for a Derby party! (Be sure to pronounce it with the accent on the first syllable, by the way. The Frenchified "bur-GOO" is an affectation.)

Burgoo takes hours and must be started at dawn on the day of the feast. Set the big pot over the fire, fill it with two gallons of water, and add a 5- pound stewing hen and 2 pounds of boneless pork meat, all cut into good-size pieces. (Some traditional Burgoo procedures call for varmint meat, whatever's available from squirrels and rabbits to weasel, possum and stranger stuff, but this is strictly optional, and city folk generally don't hold with it.)

While the meats are simmering -- which they must do for hours -- prepare the vegetables, which traditionally are best picked from your own garden that morning: 1 pint of okra; 3 cups of chopped onion; 3 quarts of cubed raw potatoes; 3 quarts of fresh chopped tomatoes; chopped celery and celery leaves and parsley to taste; 1 teaspoon of sugar; salt and pepper to taste. When all these vegetables are "done" (which in Kentucky tradition means very thoroughly done indeed), add the next round of vegetables: 3 pints of fresh lima beans, three pints of fresh corn (sliced from 12 to 15 ears), 1/2 cup of minced green pepper and 1 average-size onion, chopped. Continue simmering until these vegetables, too, are "done," by which time the chicken and pork will have fallen into shreds. Add four slices of crisp, crumbled cooked bacon, and season to taste with Worcestershire Sauce, Louisiana Red-Hot sauce, and more salt and pepper. Serve in large bowls with French bread on the side.