Chicken Chowder – revisited

A little less than a year ago I published a post called Chicken Chowder which was both a remembrance of that uniquely Western New York summer-time food, Chicken Chowder, and an homage to my father who had recently died.

We have been surprised over the past year at how many visits that post has received.  Along with the warm comments about my dad, there have been a number of requests for the recipe at the center of that post.  While I did include an image of my dad’s original recipe from 1983, some people had trouble reading his handwriting and others had problems with its 13 gallon size.  To solve both problems I’ve transcribed the original recipe below and also calculated a cut-down version sized for kitchen stove-top cooking.  If you grew up with chowder from Adams, St. Johnsburg, Shawnee, Gratwick, Pendelton, Lewiston, or any of the other volunteer fire companies in Western New York this recipe may not exactly match your memories but I hope you’ll find it a worthy substitute.

Chicken Chowder as made by Harold H. Heuer on April 13, 1983

With explanatory comments by Curt Heuer

Western New York
(Bergholz) Fireman’s Field Day
Chicken Chowder

Text in italic are comments by Curt Heuer, 2011.

For 13 gallon kettle (This recipe will yield around 11 gallons of chowder)


24# chicken, approx. (2 large, 5 small – all soup)
3# beef chuck bones w/ meat
2# beef neck bones w/ meat
1-1/2# oxtail
5-6# beef knucklebones without meat
16# unpeeled potatoes (later amended to 20#)
4# fresh carrots plus 1 pt. canned carrots
3-1/2# onions, peeled and ground in blender
3 lg. bunches celery (16 C. chopped)
1# cabbage
2 qt. tomatoes
Two 29 oz. cans of tomato puree
3 pts. Whole kernel corn
2 pts. (or cans) creamed corn
2 cans green peas (later increased to 3 cans)
1 small can lima beans (later omitted)
2 pts. Green beans, cut up small (later increased to 3 pts.)
Two 6-1/2oz. cans minced clams (later changed to one 46 oz. can clam juice/broth)
1/3 C. parsley
¼ C. salt (most of which is used when cooking meat)
1-1/2 T. black pepper (put in after meat has cooked)
Three 49-1/2 oz. cans Swanson Chicken Broth

Note:  Ingredient quantities listed as qts. or pts. refer to home canned vegetables.  Substitute approximate equivalent amount of commercially canned vegetables or equivalent approximate amount of fresh vegetables.  You may not need as much added salt if using commercially canned vegetables.


This procedure is as noted by my dad on the original recipe.  This recipe was cooked in a 13 gallon kettle fabricated from a stainless steel clothes washer inner drum (probably a Whirlpool) and heated by a wood fire.  Refer to photos in original post for details.

Fire started at 7 a.m.

7 gallons of water

(Put in all meat)
Part of salt and pepper,
2 stalks of celery, whole
2 carrots, whole
2 onions, whole

Water boiling by 8:30.  [Suggestion: cover kettle while boiling meat – to avoid loss of broth]

All meat out at 11:15

Corn, celery, onions, raw carrots, cabbage, beans and tomatoes in at 11:15

Meat (removed from bones and chopped) back in at 12:00 noon.  Discard the original whole celery, carrots and onions.

Added potatoes and other ingredients at 12:30

It was soup at approx. 2:00 when we started canning.  Dad noted that this version was “Real Good”.

Yield:  canned 18 qt., froze 18 qt.

Bergholz Fireman’s Field Day Chowder

The following recipe is a cut-down version of the original recipe – adjusted for kitchen stove-top cooking – by Curt Heuer, 2011

Bergholz Fireman’s Field Day
Chicken Chowder

Cut down to stove-top size


4# chicken (whole or cut into quarters)
1-1/2# beef bones w/ meat (chuck or neck)
1# beef knucklebones without meat
3# unpeeled potatoes, cut into ½ cubes
3/4# fresh carrots, chopped
3/4# onions, finely chopped
½ lg. bunches celery, chopped
3 oz. cabbage, chopped (about 1 C.)
One 14.5 oz. can tomatoes (stewed or diced)
One 10.75 oz  can of tomato puree
1 C. Whole kernel corn, frozen
1/2 C. green peas. frozen
¼ C. lima beans, frozen
2/3 C  Green beans, fresh or frozen, cut to 1” lengths
1 small bottle of clam broth/juice
1 Tbl parsley
½ Tbl. salt (most of which is used when cooking meat)
3/4 tsp. black pepper
2 C. canned Chicken Broth

Note:  This recipe should yield around 2 gallons of chowder.


In a large kettle (preferably 12 -16 qt.)

1 gallon plus 2-1/2 C of water, add
All meat
Part of salt
½ stalk of celery
½ carrot
½ onion

Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours.  Remove meat, bones and vegetables (discard vegetables).

Add corn, remaining celery, onions & carrots, cabbage, beans and tomatoes; simmer 45 min.

Clean meat from bones (discard bones) and return meat to pot; simmer 30 min.

Add potatoes and remaining ingredients; simmer 60 min. or until potatoes have rounded edges.


33 thoughts on “Chicken Chowder – revisited

  1. Pingback: Chicken Chowder « Another Stir of the Spoon

  2. Nicely done! I think dad started leaving out the lima beans and switched from minced clams to clam broth because I was such a picky eater in my younger days. I used to pick out the lima beans a leave a little pile of them next to my bowl and would turn up my nose in disgust when I’d see the cans of minced clams he would have ready to put in the chowder (I guess he figured the clam broth was easier to hide from me).

    Yesterday would have been a perfect day to make a batch of chowder, cool and crisp…I could almost smell the wood fire and the chowder cooking.

  3. I was born in the Rapids and my Dad was a Rapids Volunteer Fireman and we went to many Field Days. After the parade we would all head to the chowder tent, where a bowl of chowder was 25 cents and we would cover the top with oyster crackers. In the early days the Rapids sold clam chowder on Friday and chicken chowder on Sat. Maybe that’s why there is clams in the chicken chowder; a good way to use left overs. You could smell the chowder I swear for a mile. Some volunteer fire depts made good better best chowders. Many years later you could go to South Lkpt Fire Dept and buy it when they made it to sell. I have looked for years for a recipe and found none that was “it”. It is the combination of chicken and beef that gives it its aroma. Thank you for posting the recipe. Knoxville,Tn

  4. Pingback: Chowder Making in Bergholz, NY, 1974 « Another Stir of the Spoon

  5. Pingback: Even at 100, Julia gives good advise « Another Stir of the Spoon

  6. Just made another batch of chowder over the weekend…I was elated to find this recipe last fall and have made it numerous times since! I have wonderful memories of the smell of chowder cooking over the wood fire at fire halls and our boat club when I grew up in the Gratwick area of N Tonawanda. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!!!

  7. When I was young (70’s) I had Chowder 3 times a summer. My father was a member Gratwick Hose. We also had it at the Third Warders picnic and Friedens UCC family picnic. I have my own recipe now and I plan to make a 7 gallon batch this Sunday for family and friends for Memorial Day. I have found that hot dogs (Don’ta give no reguar Bologna I want Wardynski’s) go well since the cooking is easy and anyone can do it with less risk of e-coli.

    • To clarify my hot dog reply, the hot dogs donot go in the chowder, but as another dish along with the soup. Since the chowder requires constant stirring, hotdogs are easy to grill along with them. And since they are pre-cooked, there is less danger of under-cooking them.

      Thank you for this blog piece! I am attempting to start a new line of chowder masters, as this soup is truly a north-western New York tradition. If you travel south the New York State Thruway, people have not heard of chowder.

  8. Thank You for posting this recipe. It brings back such good memories of my youth. Summer time was field days and chowder. Bergholz still make their chowder and is having a sale in a few weeks. I plan to be there.

  9. I just picked up 6 quarts from Gratwick. After living in California for 27 years, I can’t get enough of this stuff. I’ve been making the rounds to different fire company’s every Saturday for the past few months. Yum!

  10. Please Please someone out there must have the Wendelville Chowder Recipe, thankyou Everyone

  11. I grew up in Niagara County and the last Fireman’s Field Day chicken chowder I had was at Wilson about 30 years ago. I tried the Erie County Church carnival version about 20 years ago and it didn’t compare. So I went on a search online. I found your website and finally got around to making your Dad’s stove top version. It is perfect. He sure got the ratio of everything right. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to try and keep some of this available in the freezer at all time.

  12. I cut my teeth on Bergholtz chowder! With my mom growing up in Bergholtz it was always a need to there for their field days and later I moved there myself. No other fire hall could compare to Bergholtz chowder (Sanborn’s was good) and I tried a LOT of chowder in my day. I used to grab any container I could to have it filled and bring it back home to freeze for the fall and winter months. NEVER expected to find the recipe and so thankful I did! Can’t wait to cook up a batch and get some in the freezer for winter!

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