Saturday, May 28, 2011




By Doc Lawrence

CHICKAMAUGA, GA--I recently began my four-year journey along the Civil War trails, a combination of history and tourism and early on learned that barbecue was an integral part of the story. The Civil War Sesquicentennial, a four-year commemorative, has started and savvy tourism officials from various states anticipate huge numbers of visitors. To date, I’ve scratched the surface in Virginia and just completed the first leg of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, the Battle of Atlanta and the March to the Sea.


My Georgia journey included Civil War sites in Dalton, Cartersville, Marietta, Atlanta, Madison, Milledgeville and Macon. Outstanding barbecue-was everywhere, adding credence to the late columnist Lewis Grizzard’s claim that Georgia has the country’s best.

Chickamauga is just south of Chattanooga in Northwest Georgia. In 1863, Union and Confederate forces battled for two days in one of history’s bloodiest encounters. A walk through the Chickamauga National Battlefield Park confirms the horror of war. Here on the lovely fields, you feel the spirits of the dead. Florida forces played a significant part in this Confederate victory and the memorial erected here by the Sunshine State is impressive.

Built in 1847, the antebellum Gordon-Lee plantation house served as the Union Army headquarters prior to the Battle of Chickamauga. After the battle it was a Confederate hospital. In 1889, 14,000 veterans came together here for a Blue and Gray reunion, a rare event for any country injured by war.

25 years after this bloody battle, Chickamauga veterans from the North and South arrived here for a friendly reunion, a barbecue, perhaps the largest one ever at that time. Former enemies, once engaged in combat, gathered on the lovely grounds of the Gordon Lee plantation to enjoy pork, slow-cooked over open pits, served with sweet iced tea, Brunswick Stew, Cole Saw and bread, a gesture of goodwill wrapped in Georgia hospitality. More than just a barbeque, it was a seminal healing event for the nation’s deep wounds.

Memorial Day weekend means barbecue for millions. Here’s the classic side dish, a gift for all those who gather to honor America.

Jim Sanders Georgia Brunswick Stew

1 four-pound baking chicken
4 pounds ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1-tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup red wine, preferably Rhone style
3 to 4 tablespoons bacon drippings 
36 ounces tomato juice
4 ounce tomato catsup
3 cups cut corn
Kosher salt and black pepper

Boil the chicken until it is very tender, cool, de-bone and chop the meat finely. In a large pot over medium heat, braise the pork until half done. Add half the chopped onions, one chopped garlic clove, chili powder, thyme, cayenne pepper and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper. Continue to braise until the meat is well browned, stirring every few minutes to break up any lumps and combine with chicken. Add the tomato juice and catsup and simmer for 11/2 hours. Add the rest of the chopped onions, another chopped garlic clove and simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt and spoon off the fat before serving.

Beaujolais goes well with Brunswick stew. It does not fight the spices and it has a lot of refreshment value. Otherwise, fairly heavy red wines like Cotes du Rhone complement the spice and flavors nicely as do several Italian reds like Chianti, Bardolino and Montepulciano.

Jim Sanders taught thousands over decades in his wine classes in Atlanta. Each Memorial Day and Fourth of July at his wine store, Sanders served  this traditional Southern dish along with countless bottles of perfectly paired wines. There was no charge. This recipe came from an old Civil War-era note found in his grandmother’s Bible.

(This article appears in my column Southwind, published in South Florida: .)

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