There Are As Many Hobo Stew Recipes As There Is Hobos!
Drifters, bums, hobos, beggars, tramps, vagabonds, etcetera, etcetera ... etcetera! Some live the life of a hobo, because they cherish freedom. Some are not hobos by choice. Some are hobos, because they are on the lam.
Good advice for those who end up drifting and those who end up landing hard with a pack of hobos, is to never ask questions, because the answers are rarely spoken with truth. Hobos do not like folks nosing in on their business. Breathing the same air and commenting on common sights is more like proper hobo etiquette.
After the civil war, hoboism began to take solid roots. During the great depression, hoboism became a cooperative way to survive. Groups of hobos who survived together became more commonplace. Camps of hobos who had a tolerance for each other were the standard.
If one was not welcome in the camp, they left the camp and rolled on down the road. Those who stuck together in hobo camps all became adept at acquiring and contributing survival related goods to their small community of peers. Food is what it takes for a hobo to survive.
A small camp of hobos can easily locate and lift (procure) enough food from towns or farms to put together a meal. Depending on the cooking skills, the meal could be a simple pot of stew or something a little bit better.
No hobos carried pots and pans. Empty big food cans and small metal drums usually served as cooking pots. Small tin cans often served as bowls. Hub caps were often used as plates. Learning hobo cooking and dining methods is a lesson in how to improvise for the sake of surviving.
Hobo stew is a boiled hobo camp meal that is made with whatever ingredients that members or guests of the hobo camp contribute to the community pot. The fairy tale about a hobo camp leader telling each hobo what to steal for the stew is just not true. Hobos are opportunists. Whatever is given to a hobo out of generosity or whatever can be taken that will not be missed, is more like what really ends up in the hobo stew pot.
Veteran hobos never stole items that would draw visits from the law. That was a sure fire way to get booted out of a hobo camp. If a chicken was on the loose and the chicken was no where near a farm, that chicken became a prime target. Raiding a hen house was a good way to get a rear end full of rock salt fired from a double barrel shotgun and also get busted by the law. Thieving on this level in the early to mid 1900's meant time spent on a chain gang.
Plucking a few ears of corn, stealing a few potatoes or clipping a few farm field vegetables became a fine art. The art was to make it look like a wild animal stole the goods. The less hobo suspicion the better! The more distance from angry people and the law the better! This is the basic code for acquiring food for making hobo stew, so the meal can be eaten without worry, instead of wearing handcuffs while watching the hobo stew being carted off as evidence.
Cheap donated food, filling easy to get vegetables, wild small game, fish caught on a trotline, cheap sausage and chicken that would not be missed are the most common items in a hobo stew.
In Florida, I once worked at a fishing village tourist trap restaurant that had hobo stew on the menu. Because it was a fishing village, the meats were local caught cheap seafood, like catfish and mackerel. Cheap sausage and turkey were also part of that hobo stew recipe.
That fishing village version of hobo stew was pretty good. A chef from Detroit used to make it in 10 gallon batches and it all sold out in 2 days time.
Today's hobo stew recipe has everything but the fish and small game in the pot. Everything that is cut up and thrown in the hobo stew pot, should look like it was cut with a pocket knife. No fancy French precision cuts are allowed! Big chunks of vegetables, whole chicken parts and coarse chopped vegetables will give a home cooked pot of hobo stew an authentic look. Only water is added and the ingredients create the broth as the stew simmers. No seasonings are allowed other than salt, pepper and maybe a chile pepper.
High Gravity Hobo Stew:
This recipe yields 1 large portion!
Stealing food to make this stew gets no endorsement. Selecting cheap regular everyday food is required. Fresh caught fish is a good option.
Any food that needs slicing or chopping should look like it was cut with a pocket knife. The choice of food that goes in the pot is really up to the individual.
High gravity beer is a strong heavy malt beer that many drifters like. It does have reputation for being a strong heavy beer. A heavy malt beer is perfect for flavoring a hobo stew broth. The high gravity in the name of this recipe refers to American High Gravity Beer.
Step 1: Place 1 chicken leg section in a pot.
Add 1 peeled medium size russet potato that is cut into quarters.
Add 1/3 cup of bite size pieces of celery.
Add 1/3 cup of bite size pieces of onion.
Add 1/3 cup of bite size pieces of carrot.
Add 4 okra that are cut into bite size pieces.
Add 3 large bite size pieces of green bell pepper.
Add 1 coarsely chopped tomato.
Add 4 ounces of large bite size pieces of smoked sausage or kielbasa.
Add 1 chopped green onion.
Add 1 whole dried red chile pepper. (Chile Puya is a nice choice!)
Add enough water to cover the ingredients.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 5 ounces of flat leftover High Gravity Beer. (Steel 211 or Camo are good brands.)
Step 2: Place the pot over medium heat.
Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
Step 3: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Simmer the stew, till the chicken is fully cooked and tender.
Step 4: Ladle the stew into a soup bowl or an empty big coffee can.
Serve with sliced white bread or cornbread on the side.
As far as a simple hobo stew goes, this one is good tasting and hearty! The mellow barley malt flavor is nice!