Chow Down on Illinois Chowder
In New England, chowder refers to a thick seafood soup. But in Southeastern Illinois, chowder is made up of more than fish, clams and corn.
In this region, the word “chowder” refers not only to the actual soup, but also to the social gathering where chowder is made and served.
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Each community uses its own variation of the traditional recipe: salt pork, onions and cubed potatoes. The chowder is cooked outside in 20- to 70-gallon cauldrons for about four hours. Every ingredient is added to boiling water according to how long it needs to cook, so everything in the chowder will be ready at the same time. The kettles are stirred continuously with a long wooden paddle to prevent scorching.
Chowders are held as early as April and through the end of October. Traditionally, communities begin cooking their chowders when tomatoes start to ripen. The first heavy frost in the fall ends the events for the year.
Some of the towns that annually host chowders include Elm River, Wynoose, Berryville, Noble, Claremont, Saint Francisville, Lancaster, Dundas, West Salem, Newton, Bone Gap and more. Find a complete list of Southern Illinois chowders at southeastillinois.com or by searching “chowder” on the the Tourism Bureau Illinois South’s events calendar.