Eat Your Heart Out – Local Produce and Mammies’ Veggie Stew

Surrounding Richmond is beautiful farm and horse country.  The city is home to eclectic and experienced foodies.  Restaurants run the gamut from homey diners serving fried donuts topped with ice cream to pure Southern meat and three joints to elegant establishments presenting the most recent and stylish food fad.  Locavores are the power brokers when it comes to supply and demand.

The farmland has given birth to organic farms, old home farms, specialty farms, dairies, and free range poultry and meat producers.  Herbs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, salad stuffs, heirloom vegetables.  And there are as many different types of farmers markets and produce stands. 

My favorite produce stand is in the middle of Hanover farm country.  From April 1 until the day before Thanksgiving, you can buy the freshest, best variety, and cheapest local produce.  There are also things such as handcrafted (what a stylish word!) jams, jellies, pickles, cheese, butter, salt and sugar, smoked hams, baked goods.

Even as late as this past weekend, the stand was overflowing with vegetables and other products.  Mountain apples are starting to make their appearance as well.  And while the produce isn’t as cheap as it was in mid-July (super sweet corn 6 ears $1, green beans 99 cents a pound, tomatoes 2 pounds for $1, etc.), it is still cheap enough to make people in other areas green (smile) with envy.  A 25 pound box of tomatoes is $8 for example.  Because of this bounty, I have been able to can 32 quarts of tomatoes and 32 quarts of green beans, freeze 16 quarts of corn (double cut and scraped of all its milky goodness), 12 quarts of assorted field peas, and 16 quarts of butter beans – not limas – butterbeans.  Butterbeans have a silkier texture and sweeter taste when cooked.

With all this bounty, I just have to cook up a huge batch of Mammies’ Veggie Stew.  You can call it soup, thick soup, or stew.  Just as long as it is full of veggies, it doesn’t matter.  I don’t use meat in mine but you can if you want to.  The recipe comes from my great-grandmother.  I fix enough to freeze 30 quart bags and several one-half gallon bags.  One a cold rainy night or day, the smell wafting from your stove will make you smile.  Add a chunk of hot cornbread or homemade roll slathered with butter, open a jar of homemade pickles or pickled beets, and you have a bit of heaven on earth.  Some of the ingredients may seem a bit odd, but Mammie worked this out years ago.  She never let me down.  Trust me.

I double this recipe and cook it three times.  It comes in handy for unexpected company or comfort for sickness or, in some cases, to take a couple of weeks after a bereavement as a good excuse to say hello and just been thinking about you.

Mammie’s Veggie Stew

2# stew beef (optional – see notes)

3 qts. Water

1 cup chopped  onion

4 c. potatoes chopped

1 tsp. pepper

5 tsp. salt (or to taste)

2 qt. corn (double cut and scraped)

2 qt. butterbeans

3 qt. tomatoes

½ c. ketchup

¼ – 1/2 c. sugar

1 tsp. hot sauce or to taste

Few good shakes of Worcestershire sauce

¾ stick butter

You can use plain water or vegetable broth.  Cook butterbeans until al dente.  Add the other ingredients.  If using whole tomatoes, break apart with hands as you add to the broth and butterbeans.   Simmer until veggies are tender.  Stir occasionally to keep from sticking and burning. You can cook down until thicker or have it thinner.  Your choice.  If you use meat, cook it first until tender and when cool, shred and add to broth.  If you use frozen veggies, use baby limas and try to find frozen sweet white corn.

Sweet Southern Peaches

Assorted Peppers and Fall Squash

Fresh Shelled Butterbeans and Assorted Peas: Dixie Lee, White Acre, Pink Eye Purple Hull, Brown Crowder, Black Eye

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