I grew-up eating my grandfather's, H.E. "Pee Wee" Gates, catfish stew. Every year my grandparents hosted a Christmas Eve drop-in at their house in Ballentine, South Carolina and folks from all over the Columbia area would stop by. Nearly everyone had a bowl of catfish stew and a slice of my grandmother's red velvet cake. The stew was cooked in a large 30 gallon pot and stirred with a yard long wooden paddle. My grandparents moved from Ballentine and stopped hosting the Christmas Eve drop-in. My grandfather died in 2003 and my uncle Wes started making catfish stew for the family Thanksgiving Day meal. Pee Wee used the red stew recipe below, my uncle Wes makes a both the red and milk-based stew variation.
RED CATFISH STEW
45 LBS CATFISH FILLETS
60 LBS POTATOES
40 LBS ONIONS
10 LBS FATBACK
2 LG. BOTTLES OF KETCHUP
6 11.5 oz. cans of V-8 juice
1/3 QT. TEXAS PETE
1 LG BOTTLE WORCHESTERSHIRE
½ BOX SALT
2/3 CAN PEPPER
½ TONY CHACHERE’S ORIGINAL SEASONING (GREEN CREOLE – 4 OZ.)
This recipe is for 25 gallons so downsize accordingly.
Directions:Add water to pot covering fish 3” to 4”. Add seasonings including Worchestershire sauce and bring pot to boil. Cook approximately 20 minutes, until fish is done (cooked and falling apart).
While fish is cooking – cook diced potatoes in another pot, approx. 20 minutes.
While fish and potatoes are cooking – fry fatback.
When fish and potatoes are done, strain potatoes and add to pot with fish. Then add onions and broken pieces of fatback and some fatback grease if desired. Allow to cook on high heat an additional 10 minutes stirring often. Lower heat and add ketchup and V-8 or milk.
If stew is not thick enough, thicken with instant potatoes.
Wes' Milk-based Catfish Stew
To make white catfish stew, substitute evaporated milk for the ketchup and V-8. It would take approximately 20 cans of milk to make 25 gallons of stew.