The folks from the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro — "a Kentucky tradition" — provide their thoughts on the origins of burgoo and share their special recipes for Moonlite burgoo and mutton dip below:
"The burgoo of Owensboro, Ky., is a hearty soup made from mutton, chicken and a variety of vegetables. No two cooks prepare it the same way, and most keep their recipes a closely guarded secret. One tradition says that burgoo came to this country from Wales. It found its way to the Kentucky frontier through Virginia, but residents of Davies County have long claimed that the Welsh-Virginian dish was a low-quality soup, not burgoo.
"The evolution of burgoo and its contents seem markedly similar to those of Brunswick stew. Burgoo developed in the early 1800s as a squirrel stew with vegetables; it was first served to crowds at political rallies and later at church picnics.
"Burgoo experts disagree about which meats actually go into burgoo. The type of meat used to make burgoo in Kentucky varies by locale — and even by individual burgoo cooks. At the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, we prefer to use mutton, beef and chicken. Mutton gives burgoo a wild game-like flavor that holds its own against the red pepper and vegetables in our burgoo. Mutton gives the burgoo the same oomph that squirrel and other wild game formerly provided.
"About the only point on which burgoo experts agree is the consistency of the soup. A good burgoo should be thick, but still soupy. This is the reason for the long, slow cooking time. It gives the burgoo time to thicken naturally."
— Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
Moonlite Burgoo Recipe
4 lbs. mutton
1 to 3 lbs. chicken
¾ lb. cabbage ground or chopped fine
¾ lb. onion ground or chopped fine
5 lbs. potatoes peeled and diced
2-17 oz. can corn (we like shoe peg)
or 2 cups fresh corn
¾ cup tomato ketchup
3-10 ¾ oz. can tomato puree
Juice of one lemon
¾ cup distilled vinegar
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 ½ tablespoon salt or more to taste
2 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne (more if you like)
Note: Some area cooks add dried or lima beans, tomatoes and a little boiled, shredded beef or wild game.
Directions: Boil mutton in enough water to cover it. Cook until tender, about 2-3 hours. Throw out the broth and bones. Chop meat fine. Set aside boiled chicken in 2 gallons of water in large kettle until tender. Remove chicken; add potatoes, cabbage, onion, corn, ketchup and one gallon of water to chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, chop chicken meat, discarding bones and skin. When potatoes are tender, add chicken, mutton, lemon, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and puree. Let this simmer for 2 hours or longer, stirring often from the bottom as it thickens. Yields 3 gallons. Burgoo is often served with bread, but crackers or corn bread are also good with burgoo.
Moonlite's Mutton Dip (Original Recipe, No Longer in Use)
Dip for chopped mutton & sliced mutton
1 gallon water
1 2/3 cup Worcestershire
2 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon MSG
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 2/3 cup vinegar
Directions: Mix all ingredients. Bring to boil.