Burgoo King

On June 6, 1906, the Washington Post asked, “Who, excepting Kentuckians and their favored Southern Friends and kinsmen, has ever really known the bliss of genuine burgoo?” We believe those mentioned include rural Vanderburgh County residents.

Burgoo, a spicy hearty stew, is a staple at area parishes’ annual festivals and socials, including St. James, St. Wendel, St. Joseph, and St. Philip communities. The soup, made with mixed vegetables, beef, chicken, and spices, has been a part of St. Philip Catholic Church for as long as 71-year-old Dan Horstman can remember.

“We make 1,200 gallons of it and make around $12,000 to $15,000 from the sales,” says Horstman, who helps the parish with overseeing volunteers, fundraising, and advertising. “The burgoo is a way to get people there, and then we have more fundraisers and prizes that we give away.”

St. Philip hosts the Burgoo and Big Raffle the last Sunday in September as its main fundraiser. The parish sells burgoo by the gallon for $15. Other food options are available for those who don’t wish to eat the stew.

“Most everyone eats the burgoo, though,” says Horstman.

Although only 30 minutes separates St. Philip and St. James, Haubstadt, Indiana, resident Aaron Kissel says each community’s burgoo can be completely different.

“There’s none that are similar,” he says. “It’s about how you make it, how it tastes, the ingredients you use. Where you grew up is what you like.”

Kissel’s father, Harold Kissel, has made burgoo for 40 years for St. James Catholic Church’s summer social, which always is held the first Sunday in August. Aaron took over the reins in 2010 with Duane Mauer and Danny Adler of Haubstadt.

But why stick with burgoo?

“Because, it’s always sold,” says Aaron. “We serve it around 7:30 in the morning and have 100 people waiting in line. Our first customer may be there at 5:30 a.m. When something has a demand like that, why not keep selling it?”

St. James sells burgoo by the gallon for $14 and often peddles more than 1,000 gallons at its summer social held Aug. 7 this year.

Harold, 78, says the process of making the burgoo begins Saturday when workers begin to cook the chicken and beef and take off the bones. Next, the meats and broth are placed into a kettle and cooked overnight. On Sunday beginning at 2 a.m., peeled potatoes, beans, cabbage, carrots, onions, other vegetables, and spices are added. The concoction cooks until around 7:30 a.m. when the volunteers begin serving customers.

“People will bring coolers and wagons, and take it back home to keep for the winter,” says Aaron.

For more information about St. James Catholic Church, call 812-867-5175 or visit stjameshaubstadt.com. For more information about St. Philip Catholic Church, call 812-985-2275 or visit saintphilipchurch.net.

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