On Mallard Creek Barbecue’s Brunswick Stew

Everyone knows that Brunswick stew originated in Brunswick County, Virginia. Or was it the city of Brunswick, Georgia? According to this article on the “complicated” history of the stew by barbecue historian Robert Moss, a claim in 1946 even claimed that the stew was a favorite of Queen Victoria and hailed from Brunswick, Germany. There’s also a Brunswick County in North Carolina but no one really tries to assert that the stew was first made there.

I’m not looking to wade into that war between Virginia and Georgia (for what it’s worth, Moss seemed to come down on the side of Virginia but says that Georgia perfected it). Instead, I’d like to focus on a local version of Brunswick stew served at the venerable Mallard Creek Barbecue. Every year as that 4th Thursday approaches and I link to an article about the preparation for the barbecue in my Wednesday linkdowns, a commenter either on this site or our Instagram or on our Facebook page inevitably comments on the Brunswick stew. Or rather, how the version served at the Mallard Creek Barbecue isn’t really Brunswick stew.

But first, for the uninitiated, the Mallard Creek Barbecue is a one day church barbecue held the 4th Thursday of October every year for the past 90 in North Charlotte. Think about that – in a city where very few things are old, this is a tradition that has been going on for 90 years. Granted, back then the land containing an old school house was vacant farmland not actually a part of Charlotte and has been incorporated in the years since. But my point remains: in a city that doesn’t have many – possibly any – institutions that are 90 years old much less much of a barbecue heritage, Charlotte somehow has a 90 year old annual barbecue. The barbecue is great and any serious barbecue fan in the area should try to attend just once. But back to the Brunswick stew…

Traditional Brunswick stew is a tomato-based thin soup or thick stew that originally was made with squirrel meat along with other a few other meats depending on the location in which it was served (shredded chicken in Virginia, pulled pork and shredded beef in Georgia, shredded chicken and beef and pulled pork in North Carolina). Then, it would have some mixture of potatoes, lima or butter beans, corn, okra, tomatoes, plus potentially a variety of other vegetables. So, to summarize: its either a thick or thin stew but maybe a soup, its made with any number of meats, and its got some veggies but who knows which ones. As you may have gathered, there really is no official recipe.

The recipe for Mallard Creek’s version uses ground chicken, beef, and pork instead of shredded versions of those meats. Lima beans are nowhere in sight and instead only corn and tomatoes are found in the stew. And perhaps most controversially, instead of potatoes, they use rice. Critics argue that the use of rice is filler to make the recipe go longer, but as Charlotte food writer Kathleen Purvis wrote in 2014, their recipe has been used since the 40’s and was more than likely made up by Rebecca “Beck” McLaughlin according to her son Dale since, as he notes “[s]he didn’t go by recipes on hardly anything.” Purvis’ article notes that the breaks from traditional Brunswick stew may have simply been a matter of preference since potatoes got too mushy and lima beans tasted too strong, according to Beck.

The official Mallard Creek Barbecue FAQ even has a question dedicated to the stew, noting “[o]n the practical side, some stews have potatoes – but don’t store/freeze/reheat well, [so] your Mallard Creek Stew will not break down as much, since the rice holds better.” It also notes that rice can’t possibly be used to stretch the recipe since there is “6 times as much meat vs rice (by weight) in each serving of stew.”

While I am really only versed in North Carolina versions of Brunswick stew, I quite like Mallard Creek’s version particularly on days when the sun is shining but the temperature is cooler. Were I to travel extensively in Virginia or Georgia, I have a feeling I’d like those respective versions as well (perhaps Georgia more so than Virginia based on what I’ve read). Regardless, my curiosity is officially piqued and as such, I will be ordering Brunswick stew any chance I get in my barbecue travels now.

I just wish I had gotten a gallon or two from this year’s Mallard Creek Barbecue.

For more on Brunswick stew:

More photos from this year’s 90th Mallard Creek Barbecue:

Linkdown: 10/30/19

The Old Hampton Store & Barbeque is part barbecue joint, part general store, and part music venue.

John Tanner’s BBQ Blog really batted for the proverbial Barbecue Bros cycle of NC barbecue in the Charlotte area with Lexington Barbecue, Noble Smoke, Sweet Lew’s BBQ, and Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

Houston’s Blood Brothers BBQ makes the Smithsonian Magazine

Last weekend’s 36th Annual Barbecue Festival sounds like it was a success

The 90th Mallard Creek Barbecue was heavy on barbecue (as per usual) but light on politicians

Keaton’s BBQ in Cleveland does serve pork barbecue but its really known for its friend chicken that is dipped in Lexington-style barbecue sauce

How three Harvard students enhanced the Kamado Joe cooker with computer modeling

Adrian Miller’s Black Smoke research hits the Richmond area this weekend

Linkdown: 10/23/19

The 90th Annual Mallard Creek Barbecue is this Thursday

Last weekend’s Smoke on the Water barbecue competition in Washington, NC raised $30,000 for local charities

The Barbecue Festival will bring in over $6.5 million dollars to the area

Matthew Odam’s list of top 50 Austin restaurants is now out and includes 3 barbecue restaurants – Franklin, Interstellar, and La Barbecue

A new contender enters the barbecue drink ring: sweet tea, Cheerwine, or champagne?!?

Robert Moss’s 7 Memphis joints to visit in next month’s Southern Living

NC Tripping’s list of best restaurants in Cleveland County includes several barbecue restaurants including Bridges Barbecue Lodge, Alston Bridges, and The Honey Hog

Linkdown: 10/16/19

Speaking of Montreal smoked meat, Fox Bros BBQ in Atlanta has you covered if you have a hankering for it in the States; its been a Tuesday special for nearly 5 years now

If you want to smoke your own pastrami, which is not the same as Montreal smoked meat but is close:

The Smoke on the Water whole hog competition event is this weekend in Washington, NC

The Eastern Carolina BBQ Throwdown was last weekend in Rocky Mount; clearly BBQ Festival Season is in full swing

Wood’s Chapel BBQ is a new, worthy entrant into the Atlanta barbecue scene and not just be

Roegels Barbecue Co. in Houston has joined the whole hog movement in Texas

Barbecue-flavored vodka?

The menu for next week’s 90th Mallard Creek Barbecue

Linkdown: 10/24/18

– WSOC Charlotte: Organizers plan to cook more than 14,000 pounds of pork for annual Mallard Creek Barbecue

– This weekend is the Barbecue Festival in Lexington; here’s 10 things you may not have known about barbecue in Lexington

– Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q is one of several barbecue restaurants in Birmingham’s Restaurant Hall of Fame

– Next time you are in Atlanta:

 
– Dr. BBQ’s restaurant, Dr. BBQ, opened last week in Tampa

– Robert Stegall began smoking turkeys after he returned from WWI after serving with the 82nd Airborne and passed the family recipe to his kids, who run Rock Store Bar-B-Que and Stegall Smoked Turkey

– Great stuff as always from Kathleen Purvis on Greek immigrants who started restaurants in Charlotte, several of which were barbecue and none were Greek

Linkdown: 10/10/18

– Menu and pricing for the 89th annual Mallard Creek Barbecue coming up in a little more than 2 weeks on October 25, 2018

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– Six names were recently added to the Barbecue Festival Wall of Fame

– A preview of some of the new barbecue foods at this year’s NC State Fair

One of the hottest items at the media luncheon was the Crack-n-Cheese in a Waffle Cone by Hickory Tree BBQ. The waffle cone was stuffed with mac-n-cheese and then topped with turkey barbecue, cole slaw, turkey cracklings and their signature barbecue sauce. While the combination might sound like too much, the end result was a blend of southern goodness.

Chick-N-Que, which also has a popular food truck, served up their Cluck Puppies. A twist on the traditional hush puppy, this dish contains chopped chicken barbecue.

– The Raleigh News & Observer’s 12 Favorite barbecue joints in the triangle

– On Louisiana whole hog boucheries

– Georgia is getting in on the state barbecue trail website action through the work of Georgia College history professors Dr. Craig Pascoe and Dr. James “Trae” Wellborn

– So this recently happened at the original Plaza Midwood location of Midwood Smokehouse

 

Linkdown: 10/25/17

– The 88th annual Mallard Creek Barbecue is tomorrow and the chefs are very busy right about now

Event organizers expect to cook 15,000 pounds of pork barbecue, prepare 2,500 gallons of Brunswick stew, shred two tons of coleslaw, brew 400 gallons of coffee and entertain close to 20,000 people.

– Preparations are underway for this weekend’s Barbecue Festival in Lexington

– The SC BBQ Association has sanctioned the fifth annual Speed and Feed Barbecue Cook-Off this weekend at Darlington Raceway

– The origins of the Alabama white sauce (if you’re into that sort of thing)

– The Triangle Business Journal is getting into the  barbecue game; their definitive guide to the best barbecue restaurants in the Triad

– A short profile on EDIA Maps, the creators of The Great NC BBQ Map

Linkdown: 10/4/17

The menu for this year’s 88th Annual Mallard Creek Barbecue, to be held on October 26

mcp-10_bbq_cost_poster

– Cheerwine funnel cake, Thanksgiving egg roll, and turkey bbq are some of the crazy food items at this year’s NC State Fair

– Seasoned Review has a few recent barbecue reviews: Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa and Hillsborough BBQ Company

– A Kannapolis barbecue restaurant was recently forced to change their name due to a lawsuit from The Varsity in Atlanta; they are now Field House BBQ

Details on the concerts and fireworks shows as part of the 34th Barbecue Festival later this month

– The more you know: history on the “barbecue oven”

– This past weekend’s Whole Hog Barbecue Championship in Raleigh was a family affair

– More from this past weekend:

The Mallard Creek Annual BBQ – Charlotte, NC

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Name
: The Mallard Creek Annual BBQ
Date: 10/27/16 (4th Thursday of every October)
Address: 11400 Mallard Creek Road, Charlotte, NC 28262
Order: BBQ plate with brunswick stew, slaw, and applesauce (link to menu)
Price: $10

Monk: After going to the Mallard Creek Annual BBQ for each of the past three years, I figured it was time for an official review. Now in its 87th year, the Mallard Creek BBQ is by far the oldest barbecue institution in Charlotte (admittedly a city of very few old barbecue institutions). Its a one-day annual event on the fourth Thursday of every October where barbecue and local politics mix, though the politics won’t get in the way if you just want barbecue. My pro tip for any first-timers is to take a late lunch and go after 2pm when there is no line, otherwise you might be in the car for awhile.

Every year, literally tons of barbecue is smoked by an army of volunteers and this year was no different with 14,000 pounds of pork smoked. I’ve been both in mid and late afternoon and the coarsely chopped pork is always moist, a tribute to the whole operation. Add the table-side hot sauce, a spicy vinegar-based sauce (skip the other, ketchup-based one) and pile with slaw on a slice of the Merita bread loaf on every table and you’ve got a nice open-faced sandwich. On this recent visit, I did this twice and had ample amounts of pork left over.

Really, the Mallard Creek Annual BBQ is probably more well known for its brunswick stew though its not the typical brunswick stew. Per Kathleen Purvis, instead of potatoes it has rice. Instead of shredded chicken and beef, it has ground-up chicken, beef and pork. Instead of lima beans, it has only corn and tomatoes.  I’m still no expert on the dish but I would go so far as to say its one of the best versions of the dish I’ve had. On the October days when the weather is a little more brisk, its a very welcome dish. Though it was a little on the warmer side this year.

It is my opinion that any true barbecue fan in the Charlotte area should make it a point to go to the Mallard Creek Annual BBQ at least once. Other publications have covered its history much more extensively, but in short its a great event put on by the folks of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church. You should go.

Ratings:
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brunswick Stew – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Linkdown: 11/2/16

– This week in “that’s so NC” barbecue: a new barbecue joint called Redneck Barbecue Lab will take over a space that formerly housed a Dairy Queen attached to a BP off I-40 in McGee’s Crossroads

– NY Times’ 13 essential barbecue stops includes Lexington Barbecue

– Speaking of Lexington, the city’s marketing campaign is apparently paying off

– Photos from last week’s 87th Mallard Creek Annual BBQ

– Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew in Austin is expanding but the new location won’t simply be “Stiles Switch 2” according to its owner

– New York Times writer Ethan Hauser: I Hopped a Plane Just for a Barbecue Sandwich. I’d Do It Again.

I can tell you with complete assurance that 532 miles is not too far to travel for a sandwich. That is the distance between my home in Ridgewood, Queens, and theSkylight Inn in Ayden, N.C., where a man in a black apron fills the cutout between the kitchen and the cash register and wields cleavers as if they were weapons from “Game of Thrones,” one in each substantial hand.