Half yearly chowder sale reaps benefits year round for the Club
Spring is signaled by many things. The opening pitch of baseball season. The arrival of the first robin. The spring sale of Pennsylania Dutch clam chowder by the Emmaus Lions Club.
For the last 50 years, and likely into the forseeable future, club members have lit fires under kettles to cook quarts and quarts of the chowder.
This year about 2,000 quarts will be cooked, put in containers and sold, said Bob Skinner, an active member of the Emmaus Lions Club. Most of the sales are through orders taken by phone. Skinner, for example, estimated he had sold 300 quarts himself, not including orders taken by the answering service used by the club during the semiannual event.
One chowder fan ordered 15 quarts for April 12, Skinner said in a telephone interview April 6. Work on the chowder was set to start the next day. The fires will be lighted April 11 and many members will work in shifts through the night to get the chowder ready in time for the first pickups starting 7 a.m. April 12.
"They eat doughnuts in the middle of the night, hot dogs in the middle of the night," Skinner said of his fellow Lions who keep tabs on the chowder kettles. "The guys have a ball."
The fundraiser started in the 20th century. A club member, recognizing the fundraising power of the chowder, willed the recipe to the Emmaus Lions Club, bypassing members of his own family, Skinner said.
The recipe is different than traditional Manhattan or New England clam chowders. The recipe includes three meats: ground ham, ground turkey and clams. Other ingredients include hard boiled eggs, noodles, tomatoes, carrots, corn, celery, peas, parsley, potatoes and some secret spices and seasonings. The ingredients are loaded into the kettles. No water or broth is added. Instead the chowder ingredients make the broth as the chowder cooks. The chowder is stirred with canoe paddles because so much is made at one time. Ingredients are added in buckets, not measuring cups.
"It looks like mass confusion but it is so well organized, it is unbelievable," Skinner said of the process.
The resulting chowder is so thick you can stick your spoon it in and it won't move, Skinner joked.
According to the Emmaus Lions Club website and Skinner, the chowder originally was cooked over wood fires. Propane is now the fuel of choice.
Cooking preparations start with treating the kettles. The kettles are coated with shortening and heated to ready the cooking surfaces. The resulting waste is tossed out. The kettles and stirring oars are stored between sales.
Funds raised benefit organizations the Emmaus Lions Club supports including the Emmaus High School fitness teams, the K-9 division of the Emmaus Police Department and the Emmaus Public Library. Funds raised also help provide eye exams and glasses for those in need and support various projects for the blind. Funds also help support nursing scholarships.
Members of the Emmaus High School fitness teams join the Lions Club members after the sale to clean the Moser Pavilion in Emmaus Community Park where the sale is held. Each fitness team member receives a quart of the prized chowder for helping with the cleanup. Plus, the students often order chowder for their parents.
"By noon the area is cleaner than when we got there," Skinner said.
Organizers expect to sell out of the chowder, as happened in 2013, despite the price increase for the spring sale. Although club members willingly make the chowder the price of ingredients increased about $600, Skinner said.
"The community is very supportive," Skinner said of the relationship Emmaus residents have with the chowder sale.
"If you're an Emmaus resident and you haven't had [the chowder] you're not a resident," Skinner joked.
The next chowder sale will be in October.