There’s no better comfort food, in my humble opinion, that a nice warm bowl of stew for those chilly fall nights. Served up with a steaming piece of fresh-from-the-oven, baked in cast iron cornbread, there’s just nothing better.

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Cornbread from a recipe handed down through many generations of my mother’s family.

And stew is most certainly an old-time recipe! In the old days, there were many nights when stew was the only option, especially in the fall when the garden was giving up its last few bits of organic goodness. There was an abundance of vegetables but usually not as much meat, unless a family raised their own or bartered for some from a neighbor “up the road a piece” 🙂

Or, like myself, you might have thought ahead and saved bits of meat scraps and bones from heartier days when you had plenty of meat. I don’t let a single thing go to waste – when we have pork chops, I cut away the bone and fat for beans, soups and stews. If I have enough pork fat, I will sometimes render a bit of lard to use for a gravy base for breakfast the next day. I try to buy plenty of chicken when it’s on sale, and the bone-in is always the cheapest, since you’re basically paying for the bone weight as well as the meat. If you trim up your chicken breasts of the fat and bone, you can use those to make a nice base for chicken and dumplings. Or you can make and can, or freeze, chicken broth, which we use religiously when one of our own gets sick. The same goes for beef trimmings – save what you can and use every little piece. It goes further than you think and you wind up getting more meals for the money you paid for the meat.

Tonight was one of those chilly fall nights here in Central Kentucky, so I started my own pot of stew. Anyone will tell you the same as I’m getting ready to – there is no recipe! I really don’t think anyone can do this wrong! That’s one of the best things about this stew. You use what you have on hand and doctor it up until it just makes your mouth water.

For mine, I started by cutting up an onion and putting it in the cast iron dutch oven with a little olive oil that I picked up on sale at the discount grocery for $1.25. To that, I added 4 large carrots, cut small. I got a five pound bag of carrots on sale at Kroger for $2.19 last week. Who can pass up a deal like that? Then, I remembered that we had bought several kielbasa sausages when they were on sale at Kroger as well, for $1.99 each, so I cut one of those up and tossed it in. I sauteed all that together for several minutes down just under medium heat, until the onions were nice and clear.

Then, I washed and cut up some potatoes from a fifty pound bag a brother brought me a couple of weeks ago. No, I didn’t peel them, that’s where all the vitamins are! I added those to the pot and stirred everything around to coat the potatoes real good and after letting them fry for just about five minutes, I added a bit of water. Not too much, as those veggies will make some moisture of their own, so I only added about 4 cups of water. My dutch oven was almost completely full by then.

For seasonings, I added a good dusting of black pepper, probably a tablespoon if I were measuring. Then a nice dusting of salt. Garlic is always a good addition for a stew, so I dusted the top of the potatoes with that and added a little chicken seasoning that I got on sale last week as well. (Chicken seasoning goes great on any pork or dinner sausage recipe, it’s not just for chicken.)

Once I had everything going, I turned the heat down just a tad more, put my cast iron lid on the dutch, and let it sit and cook. I probably cooked it for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to break up the potatoes. It’s always a little better when they fall apart. As I served it, I couldn’t help but to put on a can of collard greens (picked up from the discount grocery for a quarter!) because my daughter and I just LOVE greens, and I just dumped a couple spoonfuls right into my bowl. Delicious!!

Now, like I said when I started this post, you can put in just whatever you have. Another little trick I like to use is this: when I serve vegetables with any meal and have some left over, I pour the leftovers into a butter bowl and stash them in the corner of my deep freeze. I just keep adding to that, with left over portions of every kind of vegetable that doesn’t get completely eaten at supper time. Once I have a nice full butter bowl (I use the ones that hold 45 ounces or more of margarine – never throw them away of course!) you simply dump that in your pot, add a few meat scraps and cook it up. I’ve had butter bowls that had a concoction of green beans, peas, carrots, baked beans… the list goes on. Just be advised, potatoes don’t freeze well at all. I’d leave those out of the freezer mix.

When you put it all together and then add maybe some cabbage, a few cut up potatoes, a can of tomatoes – again, just whatever you like and have on hand – you wind up with a very hearty stew or soup that will feed the whole family, and you have, in essence, spent nothing. I have made a many of pot of stew in my time!

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This stew had a nice tomato base that turned out a lot like chili.
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There’s nothing like cooking over an open flame if you have the option.
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My mother’s stew, that I have tried to replicate the flavor of, but cannot!
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Sometimes you can turn that stew into pot pies, if you like.

To make a pot pie base, just add a couple of tablespoons of flour to a cup of cold water and mix well, then pour it into your stew and it should thicken up enough to make a the pot pie. You can put it into premade pie shells, but in the picture above, I made my own. That’s why they aren’t “pretty”  🙂  A lot of people will cover that with another pie crust, but sometimes I’ll just cover it with mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower, which is just as good.

I hope I’ve helped a bit in maybe helping y’all save some money by showing you what you can do with little bits of left over vegetables. It’s also a good way to see and measure up what you normally throw away. Over the course of a few week’s time, you have thrown away an entire meal!

And I hope, too, that maybe it helped someone take a trip down memory lane. I know it’s got me to thinking of my Mom’s soup…now I’m going to have to go ask her to make some, HA!

Thanks for stopping by!

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