Slumgullion stew recipe brings back childhood memories | Coalfield Progress

Sheila Cox Combs

guest writer

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, slumgullion is a substandard meat stew. It is to me, however, a very tasty one-pot dish I remember fondly from my childhood.

The word is believed to be derived from “slum” and “gullion.” Slum is an old English word for slime and gullion means mud. The earliest recorded written usage of “slumgullion” was in Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) where it is referred to as a beverage instead of a stew.

I am Sheila Bernice Cox Combs of Pound, Virginia. I am wife of Mike Combs, daughter of James and Iris Bolling Cox, sister of James (Chainsaw) Cox and wife, Susan Gilliam Cox and granddaughter of E.J. and Bernice Whittaker Cox of the Mill Creek section of “the” Pound.  This recipe for Sumgullion was given to me by Sarah Whittaker Powers, sister of Bernice Cox, my paternal grandmother. 

We called Sarah Powers “Granny”. To me, Granny substituted as my Cox grandmother. My true relative died before I was a year old, and I do not remember her at all.  But Granny was a very important part of my life.

I helped her and my other relatives landscape our family cemetery. I stayed with her in the hospital when she had cancer treatments and helped care for her when she died. Granny showed me many old-timey ways and taught me life lessons. She helped shape who I have become today.

Granny and her husband, Willard Powers, were some of the first people to have a color television on Mill Creek, and we spent many Sunday nights at their house watching The Wonderful World of Walt Disney and Bonanza after eating supper with them. (FYI:  The U2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was Granny and Willard’s nephew.)

Granny used her own ingredients to make her Slumgullion.  She raised hogs and made her own sausage and used the hamburger from her own beef. She grew the vegetables in her garden and is the first person I ever knew who canned both green tomatoes and green peppers to use in this dish. She also canned her own red heirloom tomatoes. Peppers such as hot, yellow banana peppers were common in her garden and in Slumgullion. I don’t use hot peppers because my family doesn’t care for that much heat so I substitute a few red pepper flakes.

 Granny use her own home-canned sizes of ingredients so the amounts and measurements are my trials and may result in some errors.  I made the dish tonight for supper along with a pone of corn bread.

Mike and I both are full as can be.  I don’t know how we always managed to have Granny’s cobbler or pie for dessert after her Slumgullion.  I hope you enjoy this column and the stew.



½ pound sage sausage (I use Jimmy Dean)

½ pound ground beef (I use 85%15%)

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped carrot

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green pepper

¼ cup chopped hot banana pepper (optional)

2 cups diced potatoes

2 cups chopped green tomatoes with juice

4 cups chopped red tomatoes with juice

2 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon paprika

Salt & pepper to taste


In a deep cooker (Granny used a deep cast iron chicken fryer.)  Mix the sausage and hamburger together and fry until well browned, chopping to mix the meat. Remove it from the oil, and keep handy for later.

Keep enough oil in the bottom of the pan to sauté the celery, carrot, onion, banana and green pepper until they are soft and done.  Remove them from the oil and put with the meat for later.  Put in the potatoes to fry.  Add extra oil, if necessary.  When they are cooked, add the meat and vegetables that have been set aside, the green and red tomatoes including the juice, basil, paprika, salt and pepper.

 Bring this to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the stew just bubbling for at least 30 minutes so that everything mixes together well.  Just before serving, mix in the mustard. Eat in a bowl with a large chunk of cornbread and butter.

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