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Sheep Stew

Walter Thompson stirs the sheep stew in Dundas, Virginia
Walter Thompson stirs the sheep stew in Dundas, Virginia

In the small rural town of Dundas, VA, there is a stew making tradition that uses “culled” (old or unproductive) sheep as the meat for a rich and very popular stew. Dundas is the center for the small radius of this stew tradition. Twice a year, the Dundas Ruritan Club fires up its pots and an army of men and women congregate to begin work on the sheep stew. Using four huge 100-gallon iron pots, a 12-hour cooking process begins at midnight the day before the stew is ready to sell.

Based on a recipe very close to the historic Jimmy Matthews Brunswick stew, but with mutton instead of squirrel, the pungent stew will turn out anywhere from 500 to 1,500 people. These people line up with containers to take home this rare and precious foodway most grew up eating as children in the Dundas area. The Dundas Ruritan Club uses the money raised by the sale of the stew for community service projects. The stew is an important and one of the only successful fundraisers for the Ruritans in this remote rural community. For “Dundasites”, sheep stew is a distinctive cultural identifier with which they have fun and that roots them in a special farm community in Virginia tobacco country.

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bullet icon The Sheep Stew tradition (04:03)

Sheep stewmaster Maxie Moore and stewmaster-in-training Johnny Hawthorne discuss passing on the sheep stew tradition.

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