World Champion Stew Contest
Buford City Park (Corner of League and Connally Streets)
Wanna have some authentic East Texas fun and enjoy all the delicious homemade stew you can eat? Then come to the Annual World Champion Hopkins County Stew Contest the fourth Saturday in October in Sulphur Springs, TX.
The cook-off features over 150 cooking teams competing for several thousand dollars of prize money. Cooking over open wood fires, the teams prepare hearty chicken or beef stew in huge cast iron pots.
Each team must prepare a minimum of 10 gallons so that there is ample stew for judges and spectators. For $5, spectators may visit as many campsites as time and appetite allow. Some contestants use 20 or even 35 gallon iron cauldrons. Last year, the 150 cooking teams that entered fed over 7,000 people.
Teams entered in the competition must start cooking around 4 a.m. Saturday to make the 10:30a.m. deadline for providing samples to the judges. However, many teams have begun setting up as early as Friday morning and preparing supper foods such as beans, chili, Dutch oven desserts and more over their campfires for all of the many visitors that tour the stew grounds Friday night. Last year, over 2,000 people were at the Stew Grounds Friday evening to visit, eat and reminisce about all of their favorite memories of the stew contest.
Stew is served at 10:45a.m. but visitors are encouraged to get to the stew grounds early so that they may walk the stew grounds and enjoy the atmosphere as gingham and calico-clad women stir simmering pots and bearded men in denim stoke glowing campfires.
Teams may also compete for “Best Campsite and Costume” and receive cash prizes.
The cooking competition began 46 years ago, but the roots of the dish date from the late 1800s, according to Meredith Caddell, president of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event. The county had approximately 100 schools back then and it became customary to celebrate the end of each school year with stew suppers that were cooked in iron pots over open hardwood fires.
There were no recipes. Families just brought what they had and threw it in the pot. The meat most likely was squirrel, and typically the most dominant vegetables were potatoes, onions, corn and tomatoes.
There is still no authentic recipe for Hopkins County Stew. For the annual cook-off, contestants may use chicken or beef (no squirrel) and there are separate prizes for the best stew with each meat.
Vegetable choices are up to the cooks, who work in teams of two plus two helpers. Most entrants emphasize the basics: potatoes, onion, corn and tomatoes. Chili powder is among the seasonings and the stews are often finished off with a little butter in homage to the county’s former claim to being the Dairy Capital of Texas.
Most cooks have a secret ingredient that they will keep secret until the day they die, or pass on the tradition to one of their children or grandchildren, so needless to say, no two stews taste alike.
For just $5, attendees will receive a bowl (for all the stew they can eat), along with cheese and crackers. Then, if visitors want to take some stew home, they may purchase quart containers for $7 and enjoy the stew for many nights to come.
For more information, please contact the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce at 903-885-6515 or visit www.sulphursprings-tx.com.
Hopkins County Stew—Family Size
This recipe is the basic Hopkins County Stew recipe and other ingredients
may be added to suit individual tastes!
2 Lbs. Skinless Chicken Pieces
4 Cups Water
1 ½ Teaspoon Salt
4 Medium Potatoes—Diced
1 Large Onion—Diced
1 15oz. Can Tomato Sauce
1 14 ½ oz. Can Peeled Diced Tomatoes
1 Teaspoon Salt
! Teaspoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 16oz. Can Whole Kernel Corn
1 16oz. Can Cream Style Corn
Stew first three ingredients in a 5 qt. Sauce pan until chicken is tender. Reserving liquid, remove chicken, de-bone and dice.
- Add to liquid, potatoes and onions. If needed, add enough water to JUST COVER the vegetables and cook until potatoes are done.
- Add diced chicken, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, diced tomato, salt, chili powder and paprika. Bring to a boil.
- Add whole kernel and cream style corn. Stir constantly (to prevent scorching). Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer. If needed, add water to fill pot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring as needed.