Thanks for posting this, it was on my to-do list.
I was in Utica on Sunday for lunch at the Cajun Connection. I had seen the Burgoo Festival as I was arriving to town. I stopped by the tourist bureau on my way out to make inquiries.
While this is the first time I heard of this festival, it is the 34th annual burgoo fest attracting 40,000 people last year. I was advised if I attended to park at the nursery on the edge of town, then take the shuttle over. Otherwise be prepared for a whopper of a traffic jam in a town not known for traffic jams.
Their Burgoo is all-beef with the special seasonings not just a secret, but a paid Burgoo-meister is brought it to deliver the sauce and supervise the cooking. I learned there is a similar festival in Springfield using the very same Burgoo-meisters, but, "Their's tastes better than ours. We don't know why." Not long ago a friend offered to make Burgoo using traditional ingredients like squirrel. Of course, I had to inquire if there might be a squirrel in the stew. I was informed it was illegal to serve squirrel for a fee. I am destined to eat squirrel based Burgoo!
Burgoo just south of I-80 was really quite a surprise for me. It is a food I usually associate with Kentucky. I told Bruce Kraig about this, who told me there are some Burgoos served in southern Illinois though it is referred to as 'chowder.' The Joy of Cooking has a Burgoo recipe that I made a few times when I was in high school. My family wasn't too impresed and the JOC is not always the best source for really off the beaten track recipes.
To give you a sense of what a classic Burgoo may be like:
Our great-grandmothers served it from the old iron pot which hung from the crane over the hearth, using any wild game brought home by her "man." It is equally as satisfying today cooked in any heavy kettle and using meat now available, served with a green salad and a slab of homemade bread.
1 stewing hen, 5-6 pounds
1 squirrel or rabbit, or hunk of beef, veal, or pork weighing about 3 pounds
5 or 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed 1 quart lima beans
1 quart whole kernel corn
5 or 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 or 3 onions, chopped coarsely
6 or 7 tomatoes, peeled and quartered Salt
Cut chicken into serving-size pieces. Treat squirrel or rabbit likewise. If using other meat, cut into 2-inch cubes. Place in heavy kettle, cover with water, and simmer until very tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove chicken and squirrel or rabbit bones. Return boned meat to broth, add vegetables, season to taste, and simmer until done, about 45 minutes. Serves 6 generously.
Note: Variations are in order, to suit your fancy and the garden's offering. Avoid cabbage, turnips, and such; they are a bit strong-flavored for this dish. Use cabbage for slaw, if you wish.
I have to admit Burgoo sounds like the stone soup with whatever happens to be available thrown into the pot. I found this amusing quote:
Arenzville, Illinois - Burgoo Center of the World
Arenzville bills itself as the "Burgoo Center of the World." I mean, it's got to bill itself as something. This ancient stew is yearly served up by the hundreds of gallons and is composed of everything living. The ingredients are a secret, but no stray dogs and cats wander the town once the Burgoo is served. [Ken Bradbury, 05/30/1998]
[RA: And, as we all know, Burgoo is best served by a certified Burgoomeister in a special clean bowl.]