Stew proves palatable after 55 years
DUNDEE -- What's the secret to concocting a delectable batch of Mulligan Stew?
The answer doesn't necessarily lie in the list of ingredients -- an extremely long list that has evolved over the years -- according to members of the Dundee Rod and Gun Club. They say there isn't one secret ingredient-- it's more of an amalgamation of many flavors.
Perhaps the secret to success for the organization's longtime fund-raiser is in the utensil. Throughout the 55 years that the club has hosted its Mulligan Stew event, the stew has been stirred with a wooden paddle. The long-handled paddle is now well worn, but it's the perfect length for stirring up the stew from the bottom.
And the pots were stirred a lot -- every 15 minutes or so --on Saturday as the club's membership prepared to serve up a hungry crowd on Saturday night. Preparations began 12 hours in advance in the kitchen at Dundee's First Lutheran Church.
"We started the fire at 5 this morning," explained Roy Dirksen, treasurer of Dundee Rod and Gun Club. "We keep adding things all day long. We had about 20 guys here this morning, peeling vegetables."
The club's recipe for Mulligan Stew has been passed down throughout its history. The original directions call for adding a pig's head, but that ingredient has been nixed. Instead, they cook up a mixture of 60 pounds of beef, 30 pounds of pork, 30 pounds of pork ribs and 12 whole chickens, all bought through the nearby Kinbrae Supper Club to ensure quality.
"There are rumors floating around that it contains road kill," laughed Dirksen. "I think they used to use cheaper meats, but we found that if we buy high-quality meats, it's better to work with."
The chickens and ribs are cooked first, so the meat can be removed from the bone. From there, it's a long list of additions, including every type of vegetable, kidney beans, tomato sauce and hominy.
"Rutabagas are the finger-getters," said Gary Zins, one of many of the club's cooks on hand to check the stew's progress, referring to an incident that sent a member to the emergency room a few years ago. "That's when people gotta go to the doctor because they sliced their fingers."
By mid-afternoon on Saturday, there were only a few ingredients left to be added to the full-to-the-brim kettles heating on the stoves. Once the tomato sauce, ketchup and spices were added, it would only be a matter of stirring and waiting for the consumers to start arriving at 5 p.m.
"We all eat two or three bowls throughout the day to see if it's any good," said club president Brad Chepa.
The Mulligan Stew supper is the club's one and only fund-raiser each year. With the proceeds, the group funds environmental projects such establishing turkey habitat by planting trees, buying materials for woodduck houses and supporting youth gun training programs in the area.
By the time the soup was being dished up, the club's special paddle had been used over and over again to keep the stew's ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pots. But the stick -- which has been crudely etched with dates of previous Mulligan Stew events, until they ran out of room in the mid-1990s -- almost had to be retired on Saturday. It was left too close to a burner and caught on fire.
"We knew something was smelling funny," Chepa said.
But the paddle was rescued before it was completely incinerated, only suffering a slight gouge on the blade and some charring, which might have added to the stew's unique flavor.
"Every year, they say it's better, so we're doing alright," member Phil Zins said.