Venison Slumgullion Stew

As part of our Armed Forces Initiative we'll be featuring exclusive recipes inspired by military service throughout the year. These recipes have been developed by Justin Townsend, a BHA Field To Table contributor, editor-in-chief of Harvesting Nature and a Deck Watch Officer in the United States Coast Guard. Our Armed Forces Initiative strives to ensure that active duty and veteran military personnel continue selfless service and enjoy the camaraderie of likeminded individuals committed to the mission of protecting our public lands and waters, and who support the ethical fair chase of wildlife. Learn more here

Text and Photos by Justin Townsend

On April 6, 1917, Congress voted to declare war, joining Britain, France and Russia in the fight against the Germans in World War I. During the following 19 months, over 4.7 million men and women would serve. We honor our WWI veterans formally on Nov. 11 with Veterans Day. But today we want to share some of the culinary history of the “Doughboys” of WWI.

There are several origin stories of the nickname “Doughboy.” The story I like the most, although disputed, involves U.S. soldiers’ appreciation for freshly baked bread and doughnuts. This is a relevant claim because the Quartermaster Corp made a significant innovation during the war with the establishment of field bakeries, which could provide hot, baked goods to soldiers in the field. Who doesn’t love a warm, freshly baked slice of bread?

With bread as an accompaniment, many field kitchens prepared a variety of items to serve the troops, ranging from chicken pie to cornmeal mush. Artillery attacks, poor weather and problems with supply lines provided challenges with food distribution to the trenches. The lack of steady meals led creative and hungry soldiers to prepare their own meals in the trenches.

As a result, slumgullion, was created. We would call this dish a “leftover,” “kitchen sink” or “garbage” soup in modern times. There are very few historical recipes for this stew in existence. Basically, any food item that wasn’t nailed down would and could be added to the slumgullion. It wasn’t fine dining and often tasted odd, but the stew was warm and filling on cold days in the trenches with bullets whizzing overhead.

Venison Slumgullion Stew


  • 1 lb. ground venison
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, minced
  • 3 cups of wild game stock (sub beef stock)
  • 1 can (14.5oz) of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can of navy beans, drained
  • 6 small red potatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp of herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pot to medium-high heat and add butter. Once butter melts, stir in onion, garlic and celery. Allow them to cook 2-3 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent.
  2. Add the ground meat and brown well. Once it's browned, deglaze the pot by adding the wild game stock. This will loosen those brown, crispy, delicious bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, beans, potatoes, tomato paste, salt, black pepper and herbs de Provence. Bring the stew to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low.
  4. Cover and allow the mixture to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Further Reading:

World War I Rations: Full Belly, Fully Ready

What Soldiers Ate During World War I

5 Meals That Won Wars

Photo Courtesy of USAHEC.

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About Justin Townsend

Justin Townsend is a hunter, angler and author. He serves as the editor-in-chief of the wild food website Harvesting Nature . He is the author of the wild game cookbook "Eat Wild Game".

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