by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
Ickle was captain, Pickle was crew,
And Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew
And higher they flew,
Ickle Me, Pickle Me, and Tickle ME too
— Shel Silverstein, Ickel Me, Pickle Me, Tickle me Too
Historically, Mulligan Stew is a basic Dutch-oven style stew that dates back to the early 1900s. It was slow cooked on the coals of an open campfire, usually in a large can. If you were a Scout, you may remember where each Scout was asked to bring a can of some kind of vegetable from home, which was then added to basic stew ingredients like meat and a beef or tomato base.
It has been called Campfire Stew, Scout Stew, Hunters Stew, Hobo Stew, Beggars Stew ... but the most popular name is Mulligan Stew. The term "Mulligan" is a stand-in term for any Irishman, and Mulligan Stew is simply an Irish stew that includes meat, potatoes, and any vegetables. Only a pot and a fire are required. The person who put it together was known as the "mulligan mixer."
During the Great Depression, homeless men (hobos) would sleep in a "hobo jungle" (a campsite near a railway). Traditionally, the jungle would have a large campfire and a pot into which each person would put in a portion of their food to create a communal dish that was, hopefully, more tasteful and varied than the original because it was enhanced by the next contributor who showed up through the woods. It included whatever could be begged, scavenged, found, or stolen. A local Appalachian variant is a burgoo, which may comprise such available ingredients as opossum or squirrel.
11/2 lbs ground beef
41/2 cups tomato juice
2 141/2-oz can beef stock (approx. 4 cups)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
In a skillet, brown ground beef until cooked through. Drain off excess fat. Return meat to pan and sprinkle meat with flour. Add 1 can of beef stock and stir while heating for 3 minutes. Add the tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and olive oil.
Pour into a large pot, add 2nd can of beef stock, and that's it for the base. Now the fun begins. Stir in potatoes and whatever vegetables you want: diced onions, diced peppers, celery, diced tomatoes, corn, cut green beans, lima beans, butter beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, English peas, purple-hull peas, black-eyed peas, carrots, turnips ... whatever suits your fancy.
Stir, cover and simmer over medium to medium low for 30-40 minutes, or until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, but don't over-do it on spices. The intent of this stew is to make it as simple as possible and let the vegetables carry the taste. Hobos didn't have a lot of access to any fancy spices.
I use 1 can each of corn, baby lima beans, cut green beans, sweet peas (or 2 cups each); 2 cans new potatoes, diced; 1/2 can onion/pepper frozen mix.
If adding onions, peppers, or celery, be sure to sauté them first and then add the browned ground beef. You can also use other meats besides ground beef: stew meat, venison, bacon, Italian sausage, smoked sausage, andouille, kielbasa, and so on.
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