N03A3730OWENSBORO, Ky. (12/3/15) — On chilly days and freezing nights, nothing satisfies appetites like a steamy bowl of homemade chili, soup or stew.

You probably have your favorite winter warm-up dishes, but there’s an option that comes from pioneer days in western Kentucky.

It’s burgoo, and how to pronounce it sparks as much debate as what goes in the cooking pot. It’s likely “burgoo” came from “ragout” (pronounced ra-goo), a French stew of meat vegetables and spices. Whether you say BUR-goo or bur-GOO, its ingredients and history make for great conversation at your next meal or holiday party.

Settlers cooked burgoo in massive iron cauldrons filled with whatever the fall harvest provided, from vegetables to wild game. The “road kill” mix evolved into the modern base ingredients of poultry, beef, and in Owensboro, mutton. Lima beans are a must, as are various other veggies and spices to taste.

Making burgoo in Owensboro often is a social event. Burgoo is served all summer at picnics hosted by the area’s 22 Catholic parishes. One of those, St. Mary Magdalene, celebrated its 100th anniversary picnic in 2015.

Some of the parishes, such as St. Pius X, even have burgoo wagons and prepare burgoo 70 gallons at a time. Watch this video for more about how St. Pius X cooks burgoo from its wagon.

Find burgoo all year in Owensboro at Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn and the Old Hickory Bar-B-Q. While there, try another signature delicacy, barbecued mutton.

What’s fun about burgoo are the recipes. No two are the same, and cooks guard them in tight secrecy. Recipes are filled with territorial nuances, personal touches and various must-haves.

Many cooks in Owensboro start with this recipe and add their own secret ingredients. Modify it yourself, and the result is a delicious option served up with history and conversation. It’s a perfect addition to your collection of winter warm-up dishes.

Owensboro Burgoo

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 pound lamb
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh, shelled baby lima beans (substitute frozen 10 ounce package)
  • 2 medium green peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound okra, diced
  • 4 cups fresh corn off the cob (substitute 24 ounce canned corn)

  • In 9-quart or larger pot combine chicken, pork, lamb, water, salt and pepper. Bring to boil and then simmer at least 2 hours or until meats are tender. Remove meats, and save stock. Shred meats, discarding chicken skin and all bones. Return shredded meats to stock. Add next six ingredients. Bring to boil and stir. Simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add okra and corn, simmering another 30 minutes. Add more spices to taste. Makes about 30 side dish or 20-main course servings.

SurfKY News
Information and video by Beck Glenn, Visit Owensboro

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