Pine Bark Stew

While no one knows for sure, some believe this mysterious stew got its name from the firewood atop which the soup simmered, while others speculate the idea came about when colonists saw eastern coastal Indian tribes eating a fish soup with pine bark utensils. That’s right—you won’t be biting down on any bark in this classic communal stew filled with fresh fish, smoky bacon, potatoes, and onions. Juniper offers a very subtle pine-like flavor to this stew as an ode to its mysterious name.

Pine Bark Stew
Yields: 4-6 servings
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound baby yellow potatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 (¼-pound) skinless freshwater fish fillets (such as catfish or trout)
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed (optional)
  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • Hot cooked rice, to serve
  • Garnish: chopped fresh thyme, ground black pepper
  1. In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon using a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels, reserving drippings in pot.
  2. Add potatoes and onion to pot; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme, garlic powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Top fish with remaining ¾ teaspoon salt and remaining ½ teaspoon pepper. Arrange fillets over potatoes in pot. (Cut pieces to fit, if needed.) Slowly pour in broth. Place juniper (if using) in a piece of cheesecloth, and secure with kitchen twine, or place juniper in a tea ball strainer; tuck into broth. Cover and simmer until fish is firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove fillets using a slotted spatula; set on a plate, and keep warm. Add tomatoes to pot, and stir to combine. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove and discard juniper sachet. Stir in bacon just before serving. Spoon vegetable mixture into bowls. Top with hot cooked rice and fish. Garnish with thyme and pepper, if desired.