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Gillman

Burgoo [was: "Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe]

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Gillman

"nothing like the wonderful burgoo I was treated to at the Talbot Tavern!"

I was trawling through some old posts and found a short string mentioning burgoo, and above is a quote from one of Mark's postings praising the burgoo of Talbott's.

I fancy myself an amateur food historian and usually I can figure out, if not the exact origin of a dish, at least the country it likely came from. E.g., clearly (New England) cobblers and grunts were English regional foods, the names may have changed along the way but I reckon cobblers are known in some remote town still in Yorkshire, England or one of the Shires..

But I can't figure out burgoo. Since it is a kind of stew, as I write this, I am wondering now if it is a variant spelling and pronunciation of the French, "ragout", meaning stew. Lots of French trappers must have tramped through Kentucky before settlement occurred. Could the old French ragout have been corrupted into "burgoo"? Words often get turned around a bit and this sounds plausible to me. The word burgoo doesn't sound English, Gaelic, German, or American Indian. Where the heck did it come from? (Everything comes from somewhere, at least in part). Does anyone know, or have another theory of the origin of this word? I have had burgoo occasionally in Kentucky and enjoyed it a lot. Some of the older posts speak of bourbon being good to add to burgoo, which sounds like a positive notion.

My problem with a French origin theory is, why would burgoo only be known (if such is the case which I think it is) in Kentucky? The French explorers went all over North America and left plenty of French place names to prove it, Detroit, Coeur d'Alene, Des Moines, Louisville, etc.

Who makes burgoo in our crowd, Bobby does your family make one?

Gary

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Gillman

Could burgoo be a compound word, a combination of "bourbon" and "ragout" - abbreviated over time to, "bour-gout"..? I think this is possible except the burgoos I had in Kentucky did not have bourbon added (as far as I know). I think (with due modesty) I may be on to something here..

Gary

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ratcheer

I recently read a mention of burgoo in one of Patrick O'Brian's excellent Jack Aubrey (aka, Master and Commander) novels, Post Captain.

O'Brian is lauded for his meticulous research, so I am sure the reference has basis in fact. The book is set in the British Navy, circa 1800.

Tim

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Gillman

Thanks, Tim.

Is this author American or British (or Irish)?

When he refers to burgoo is it in the context of the Southern U.S., e.g., British navy men encountering the dish there? Or is it presented as part of the British navy mess? If latter this may mean the term is a British expression, maybe an old English regional food name which the navy spread to certain parts of the world. I could see Englishmen turning "ragout" into "burgoo" through how the foreign word sounded to their ears, but Southerners might have done this too.

Could the word burgoo have an African or African-American origin..?

Gary

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ratcheer

I can do a little research and find the background of the author.

But, in the novel, the burgoo was served as part of a meal to the British naval officers. And, in the previous novel, but not in this one, they had only the slightest contact with Americans. The main subject is the conflict with the French and Spanish revolving around Napoleon.

Tim

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Gillman

Thanks, I should have thought of this first but a quick web search pulled up www.burgoo.org which gives information on its history. A British origin is offered as likely, which ties in to your suggestion, Tim. Also, it is mentioned ragout may be the origin too, even bulgher (the wheat), which sounds unlikely unless burgoo is a shortened form of "bulghur ragout". All these ideas may be true, however and relate in some way. Many French words entered the British culinary lexicon in altered form. There are hundreds of examples, I'll give only one: kickshaws is, or was, a kind of appetizer or small meal, it comes from "quelque chose", or "something". I could see English officers mangling the word "ragout" after a rum or two (or in jest) to form, "burgoo". The Oxford dictionary considers it an old British term for a thin gruel or soup again with a naval connection. And the site makes it clear there are centers of burgoo interest in the States outside of Kentucky, e.g., Illinois. But why would an old naval dish end up far inland in Kentucky..? One of the mysteries of food history.. In Quebec, a British naval dish brought to the Quebec City and Montreal ports was "sea pie", a dish cooked on a ship, a boiled dish with a topping of suet pudding. It could involve fish but more generally meat. This is known today in Quebec as "cipaille". It is a Quebec French word now but derives from the English sea pie.

Gary

N.B. Through the miracle again of the web I discern that in Vancouver, Canada there is a restaurant called Burgoo which specialises in stews. Its menu can be perused on-line and the stew line-up sounds great. Kentucky Burgoo is first on the list and the recipe sounds like a good one (including pork, chicken, various vegetables). Beef Burgundy is listed, so are various East Indian lentil and other dishes. It all sounds great and don't we (many of us) live in a multi-cultural world..?

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bobbyc

Who makes burgoo in our crowd, Bobby does your family make one?

We don't have a heirloom recipe for it. At the cookout here in 2002, Vickie Spencer brought her Bourbonic Burgoo. It was very tasty as I recall. yum.gif

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Gillman

Thanks, Bobby, and yes, I recall reading in the string something about an atomic, bourbonic, bur-goo.

Sounds like a good rap lyric. smile.gif.

I would be interested if others in Our Crowd would contribute their favorite recipes if they make this dish. I intend to try it at home. Hey, if they can make it in Vancouver, I can do as well or better in Toronto: we're 3000 miles or so closer to Kentucky, eh? (With apologies to my countryman, Dave M). smile.gif

Gary

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ratcheer

Gary, your powers of research seem to far exceed mine. Excellent info!

Tim

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ratcheer

Burgoo is virtually unknown in my neck of the woods (AL and GA). But Georgia can provide some mean Brunswick stews. yum.gif

Tim

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Gillman

Not exceed, Tim, you were the one who twigged me to the U.K. connection!

Gary

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bobbyc

If one follows your link , Gary , and also goes to the" What is Burgoo anyway" They will find this picture. I couldn't resist, It looks as if Craig Beam could also cook up a little Burgoo! grin.gif

post-73-14489811550747_thumb.jpg

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Gillman

Yes I saw it and it's a great picture mostly because it's real. Such expressions of tradition are often to be found in areas where (to state the obvious) change comes more slowly than other places. Not to say being real doesn't exist in many contexts, and also (or what comes to saying the same thing) there are many kinds of communities - our online forum here provided courtesy of Jim Butler is one I value very highly.

Gary

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LeNell

Thanks for bringing attention to burgoo. I've never heard of it and am now eager to try my hand at it. My version will have to have some bourbon added. Ya know, a little for the pot and a little for the cook. grin.gif

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Paradox

I'd call the Talbot Tavern in Bardstown and get their recipe, it was SO good in 2002! Burgoo is one of the dishes I wait to have every year when we go down to KY...

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brendaj

Hey Tonya,

I'll jump in here. After that terrific Bourbon Jelly, I owe you one

I can't take credit for this recipe, it came from a friend in Owensboro. I've used it a couple of times, and it's the real stuff. I don't have a grinder, so I just chopped things real fine. The original called for pounds and gallons of stuff, so we cut it down:

Frank's Burgoo

2 1/2 lbs. beef

2 1/2 lbs. mutton

1 hen

3 qts. whole tomatoes

1 qt. tomato puree

1 qt. ketchup

2 qts, baby limas

40 oz. white shoepeg corn

1 pt. salt

1/2 lb. pepper

4 oz. worchestershire sauce

4 oz. vinegar

1 6 oz. bottle Frank's Hot Sauce

1 lb. onion

5 lbs. potatoes

2 lbs. cabbage

1 lemon

Boil beef, mutton and hen for approx. 3 hrs (until cooked). Beef will not take quite that long. Remove from water, cool and remove bones. Coarse grind meat. Strain broth left in kettle to remove all bones.

Put all meat back in the kettle and add tomatoes, puree, ketchup and baby limas.

Grind onions, potatoes, cabbage and add to kettle. After all ingredients are in kettle, finish filling with water. After ingredients have boiled for about 1 hr., add corn, hot sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, worchestershire sauce and lemon. Don't add these ingredients all at one time, add slowly until desired taste. Remove the lemon after one hour.

Here are some old photos of the Owensboro BBQ Festival, where Burgoo and mutton rule:

http://www.angelfire.com/ky/burgoo/bf98.html

And Moonlite BBQ serves it all year.

Bj

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LeNell

Thanks, m'dear! I can't wait to try this stuff (with a little booze added in). I can't believe I've never even heard of burgoo before, but then again, I grew up in the backwoods of Alabama far, far away from Kentucky. lol.gif This sounds like it will be so good with some iron skillet cornbread made with lard and buttermilk. yum.gif

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brendaj

I grew up in the backwoods of Alabama far, far away from Kentucky.

Geez, I always thought of Alabama as a neighboring state wink.gif (Yer just the other side of Tennesee lol.gif)

Really, I believe Burgoo is just Kentucky's version of Brunswick Stew. Originally, both were made with various little woodland critters lol.gif Or, maybe Brunwick Stew is just a Virginia version of Burgoo skep.gif. But they seem to be an awful lot alike.

iron skillet cornbread made with lard and buttermilk.

Ouuu Baby! I know some of the guys here are cringing right now. But I agree 100%! If you want a flakey crust or decent cornbread...gotta use lard bowdown.gif

And, of course... add alittle Bourbon to everything.

Bj

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Gillman

Interesting recipe. I have read that mutton was substituted for game to lend a savoury "wild" taste. However, mutton is also used in Kentucky bar-be-cue. In 30 years of reading about regional foods in the West, there is one other country where I've read mutton is, or was, a tradition: Britain and specifically England. In my view, Englishmen brought the taste to Kentucky and it held on there through sheer tradition, tenacity. I mean, Kentucky is not more suited to raising sheep than many other areas. And even if it was taste would have turned to lamb, as it did finally in U.K. That mutton held on in old Kentucky is a testament to ancestral practices, even if (I would think) people can't recall any more where the mutton thing came from. Look at any regional collection of recipes in England (that has any pretention to authenticity) and mutton pops up, and if I looked hard enough I think I could find an analogue to how it is used in burgoo (itself courtesy Royal Navy circa 1700's). Are Americans aware of this enormous contribution the British made to American mores and foodways? German-speakers in whiskey, yes (and in food to a degree, that's another story); but give Britain its due too...

Gary

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LeNell

Lard is the best way to go, I agree. A coupla weeks ago my sweet pea was sent to the store for some shortenin' to make corn bread. He came back with, "Bad news is they didn't have shortening. Good news is they had lard." I almost ate the whole pan of cornbread all by myself! Nothing that a little bourbon in the blood won't thin out, right?

I wonder what neighbors would think if I got a gun out and shot a few squirrels for some burgoo. lol.gif

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cowdery

I once had a girlfriend who was very country and she used to tell about, when she was married, her husband going out in the morning and shooting a couple of squirrels, and she would fry them up for breakfast. That blew my mind, urban Yankee that I am.

She also married the guy when she was 16 and he was 21, and she wasn't even pregnant. Now that's country.

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gr8erdane

I wonder what neighbors would think if I got a gun out and shot a few squirrels for some burgoo.

Oh my goodness, you would sure be hard up to shoot city squirrels if they're anything like their St Louis City cousins. Practically tree rats here in the city. Got to go out in the country for good squirrel. Nothing beats a good squirrel gravy on hot biscuits (yes, made with lard). BTW, lard gets a bad rap. Everyone says it increases your cholesterol and clogs arteries. Anyone who ever handled the stuff would know it just lubricates the circulatory system into a platelet superhighway. skep.gif

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gr8erdane

No Chuck, if it was REAL country they would have courted for five years first and then gotten married at 16 and 21. smilielol.gif

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boone

I have read that mutton was substituted for game to lend a savoury "wild" taste.

Gary,

I had a post in this forum but deleted it through "pressure from my family". They would not let me leave it here. Oh Well, I don't know if you saw it but I hope you did smilielol.gif Now that was "backwood's country" smilielol.gif

To go over a tad bit of it. Burgoo was not burgoo unless it had wild game it it. Sheep ain't wild "around here" grin.gif The types of meats used were rattlesnake, squirrel, rabbit, quail, turtle and like I mentioned before, opossum...Good grief blush.gif they will hunt, kill and eat anything confused.gifblush.gif

BTW---When they told me opossum was in there there was no way I was gonna eat it! They have had goat roast up there and one time they had a "Ponie roast"...

Well Gaaaleeeeeee, Ethel..."Old Bess" is down out in that thar field so's how 'bout we have a shin dig? smilielol.gifsmilielol.gifLMAO!!!!!!! smilielol.gifsmilielol.gif

One more thing to add...Every year, the Sunday after the Derby Bardstown hosts the Kentucky Colonel's B-B-Q...The traditional "Burgoo" in always on the menu...It's a Kentucky tradition grin.gif This is where that man from Scotland in one of those skirts, grabed one of my shoes, poured his beer into it, and downed it right before my eyes smilielol.gifsmilielol.gif Just goes ta show ya...folks will eat most anything and drink from most anything too smilielol.gifsmilielol.gifsmilielol.gif

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Gillman

Thanks, Bettye Jo, most interesting. Clearly the Anerican burgoo has changed from the old British sailor dish which essentially was a kind of gruel, a porridge of bulghur wheat and/or other grains, I'm sure. Still, the texture that came from that survives, I think, in Kentucky's burgoo, except now it comes from the potatos, corn, okra dissolving in the liquid. (This inference is based on one I had in Louisville). Sounds like burgoo is something for special occasions as opposed to a, "Mom, what's for dinner tonight?"-type dish. Anyway, I'll try to get some game for my dish when I make it. You can purchase certain kinds of wild meat here (e.g. caribou, boars) and sounds like it might go well in that burgoo.

Question: has anyone ever heard of any kind of fish being used in burgoo, or is that a no-no?

Gary

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