Tag Archives: stew recipe

Family Recipe for Venison or Beef Stew

Beef Stew

By The Flying Enchilada, Flickr.com, Used with Creative Commons License

Stew. One of the dishes that we share with our ancestors, even when we aren’t thinking about the historic roots. It probably ranks right up there with beer as one of the most ancient foods in our repertoire. A hearty, meaty dish perfect for fall and winter with it emphasis on root vegetables and whatever meat the hunter hauls home, everyone needs a good stew recipe in their kitchen.

Stew. Versatile. If your hunter is not dragging home a deer to cut up for venison steaks and roasts and stew meat, the stew recipe accommodates beef–even using up some tougher cuts. ( I have discussed here my reaction to hunting by the men in the family–and how common it was when I was growing up in Ohio.)

Beef Stew (or venison or squirrel, or whatever meat you choose) is a joy to cook because it is so forgiving. You can adapt the stew recipe to your own tastes, adding and subtracting seasonings as you like.

I also love the fact that leftover stew just keeps getting better. If you can resist eating it all up on the day you make it–when the house smells all meaty and garlicky and delicious from the long simmering concoction on the stove–put it in the fridge for the next day. Your patience will be rewarded.

Book Cover
I recently read Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn, who grew up mostly in Michigan. You can find a complete review of her food memoir at my sister site, A Traveler’s Library. Here at Ancestors in Aprons, it will join our page of “Food Books that Stir Family Memories,” and I could not resist sharing her Grandpa Charles’s stew recipe.  Doesn’t that sound like just the kind of food memory we like to talk about here?

Although stew is one of the things I make without a recipe–tossing in herbs (usually Italian, sometimes French) and chopping whatever veggies I have on hand (I like to add rutabagas), I like the suggestions in this recipe.  It adds a bit of vinegar, balanced by a bit of brown sugar, which I imagine helps tenderize the meat and add a richer flavor.  Also, the thought of using allspice for flavoring strikes me as inspired.

I totally agree that browning the meat adequately is the key.

Grandpa Charles’s Beef or Venison Stew

Beef Stew from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Serves 10
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 3 hours
Total time 3 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
From book Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good


  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (plus more as needed)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2lb beef or venison meat (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetavel oil (plus more if needed)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 carrots (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced (about 2 1/2 cups))
  • 6 stalks celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1lb potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)


1. Mix together 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper and flour in a large bowl until well blended. Toss the meat with the flour mixture to coat well.
2. Add the oil to a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, brown the meat well on all sides in batches; add a bit more oil if needed. Return all the meat to the pan. Add the hot water, allspice, vinegar and sugar. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat is starting to get tender.
3. Add the water, tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Put the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few more grinds of pepper on top. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for another hour, or until the meat is tender.
4. Then add the potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until they are softened.
5. Before serving, remove the bay leaf. Taste to see if it needs salt or pepper and stir in the parsley. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.


from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Kathleen Flinn, 2014.

Katherine Flinn attaches the following note at the beginning of the recipe, found on page 129-131 in Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.

“The key is to get the meat good and brown,” Mom says of Grandpa Charles’s stew recipe. “If it looks a bit charred, that’s about right.” If desired, add 2 to 3 minced garlic cloves with the carrots and onions. If the meat is particularly tough, you’ll need to simmer it longer. I like to serve this with hot buttered noodles; see Della’s Homemade Noodles (page 250).

Photo shown with recipe by Valerie Lam, Flickr.com, used with Creative Commons license.

100th Post and a Roots Stew Recipe

Today we celebrate our 100th article at Ancestors in Aprons, (unbelievable!). If you are just getting started at Ancestors in Aprons, I suggest you start the page called All About Food and Family.

For this week’s Civil War era recipe, I am going to tell you about a dish Erasmus could have made in the field. Since we have a grocery store nearby and a kitchen to cook in, we have the luxury of upgrading it with a bit of an East Indian flavor but either way it is a Roots Stew recipe.

Ingredients for Roots Stew recipe

Ham hock, potatoes, carrots, turnip and parsnips

Yes, this is the 100th article in this website that makes a “roots stew” of searching for family roots and thinking about ancestor’s connection to food. We’ll celebrate by cooking up a roots stew recipe–because root vegetables were dependably under the ground as the troops marched south from Ohio. Despite the fact that the troops were forbidden to go foraging (otherwise known as pillaging) we know that it would be difficult to pass up a field of turnips or parsnips. Cpl. Wolbach has some very amusing stories about these forays into field and orchard.

I became closely acquainted with potatoes as I related when I gave you a scalloped potato recipe, but turnips and parsnips are not a regular on my dinner table. After looking at their nutritional benefits, I may add them more frequently, along with rutabagas, that I already put in soups whenever possible. They are very high in vitamin C, high in potassium and manganese and fiber and low in calories.  That’s a big thumbs’ up for humble root vegetables.

root stew recipe in pan

Stew vegetables in pan

If Erasmus were going to make this roots stew recipe, he and some of his friends could just put a hunk of their ration of salt pork in the pot, maybe first cutting off some of the fat to grease the pot, then add whatever root vegetables the soldiers had been able to gather and pour in some water.  

He would probably have some salt left from his weekly rations and could add that, and if any of the men had a knowledge of the wild herbs that grew in the woods, they might season the stew with some wild garlic, or some Judas’ ear mushrooms, some wild mustard seeds, or other free for the picking seasonings still available in the fall south of the Ohio River. (Once they get out of that snow he was complaining about in the last letter we read.)


Roots Stew Updated

Serves 6-8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Lunch, Side Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or bacon grease
  • Hamhock or fatty pork
  • 2 parsnips cut in 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 medium potatoes, 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks
  • 1 turnip, 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks
  • 3 large carrots, 2 inch long chunks
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 can chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 can coconut milk


1. peel or scrape vegetables and cut in pieces
2. Saute ham hock and vegetables in oil until just starting to brown
3. Add rest of ingredients except coconut milk and simmer until tender.
4. If using ham hock, remove. (Save to reuse in another soup or discard). Stir in coconut milk, warm, serve.


Can be made vegetarian or vegan by using olive oil and vegetable broth instead of bacon grease and chicken broth and eliminating ham hock.


The Holmes County Republican series entitled “Camp and Field” written b Cpl. Theodore D. Wolbach and published from February 1881 to August 1882 is available in image and transcription at the official 16th O.V.I. site.

I am indebted to the cookbook Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook by Billy Joe Tatum for suggestions on using wild plants.  For this and more cookbooks, see my food books page.