Linkdown: 3/11/20

Mr. Barbecue is still on track to reopen in mid to late-May and the block mason started working on the pits as of early last week

Charlotte-based Mac’s Speed Shop names former Del Frisco’s vice president of operations George Shang Skipper as its president with the charge to expand their barbecue business

Duke’s Mayonnaise expands to barbecue sauce

Pik-N-Pig in Carthage is the rare combination of an airport-slash-barbecue joint

Franklin Barbecue Pits is targeting to begin shipping their first units by Memorial Day

Picnic is an essential restaurant in Durham, according to the News & Observer

The 10 best barbecue spots in Richmond according to travel site Trip Savvy

Micklewaith Barbecue’s Smithville location has closed after one year

Details on Carey Bringle’s new barbecue restaurant, called Bringle’s Smoking Oasis, which will focus on barbecue not-native to Tennessee and is eyeing a September opening

The stories behind six Charlotte-area barbecue joints; a re-up from last year from Charlotte Magazine

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: 4/24/19

Stephen Colbert donated $412,000 to NC hurricane aid relief for Hurricane Florence: “We all hope this will help the Carolinas recover from the disastrous weather of last fall”

The next TMBBQ Top 50 won’t be until 2021 but at the halfway point there’s this from Daniel Vaughn; Texas Monthly is now behind a paywall so don’t be surprised if you aren’t able to access

Pinehurst Brewing Co. hired away a former head brewer at Heist Brewery in Charlotte and is smoking pulled pork, brisket, and smoked chicken on site

Rodney Scott in a brief chat explains his philosophy

Ice Cube said, “Today was a good day.” You upped the ante and said, “Every day is a good day.” Can you please expound on that philosophy?
This is my personal belief to start off every day with a positive attitude. You made it through the day before, and now you have another chance to do great things. This applies to both my craft as a pitmaster and for my life as well. It helps me ignore any negativity and overcome the times when things get tough. I think to myself: “This isn’t a bad day. This is just a challenging part of a good day.” It also gives me the confidence to not take my time for granted and embrace learning new things.

Congrats to Midwood Smokehouse on their Charlotte Magazine BOB win

Sam Jones was mistaken for a car thief in Florida earlier this month

Jones Bar-B-Q and its sister pitmasters received the Queer Eye bump earlier this year and its brought business, fame, and love

Downtown Richmond is getting a new barbecue joint on Broad Street called Fatty Smokes

Mood:

Linkdown: 2/27/19

The Los Angeles Beer and World Barbecue festival did not go off without a hitch this past weekend

Matt Horn’s Horn Barbecue pop-up is featured in this guide to black-owned restaurants in the Bay area

If I were in Atlanta this coming Saturday, this is what I’d be doing:

AVL Today explores the three predominant sauces in the Carolinas – eastern NC vinegar, Lexington-style (tomato plus vinegar), and SC mustard

Photographer Ted Rutherford shares his ATX BBQ Guide ahead of this year’s SXSW

Killen’s Barbecue brisket pizza is available from Houston-area Papa John’s until the end of March

Located in Bastrop just outside of Austin, The Gas Station serves barbecue and has cabins for rent

Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue recounts a Brunswick stew festival from over 100 years ago

The “Story of Barbecue in North Carolina” travelling exhibit will be on display in Asheville through March 23

Big congrats to our friend Garren at Jon G’s Barbecue who is taking a big step in making his barbecue dreams come true!