Winter has been mild so far this year, but my many aching joints and previously broken bones keep telling me a cold snap is coming. When the temperature does drop below freezing, I’ll be ready because I’ve already made a large batch of chili.
It’ll be waiting in the freezer until it’s needed for that icy, windy day that always comes along in February, just when folks start thinking we’ll have an early spring.
Oh, it probably won’t get cold enough to kill off last year’s mosquitoes, but it will get cold enough to allow you to appreciate a fire to warm your feet and a hot bowl of chili to warm the rest of you from the inside out.
From what history I can gather on this spicy stew, I find that chili gets its name from the chile pepper, the original key ingredient. Original recipes appear to include dried chiles, beef, suet (animal fat), tomatoes, onions and garlic. You’ll notice I didn’t mention beans.
If you ever order a cup or bowl of chili in a Texas restaurant, you won’t get any beans there either. Apparently, American frontier settlers of the Southwest didn’t need the extra fiber. On the other hand, I suspect the chiles alone served as excellent probiotics. Although I find true Texas-style chili beyond delicious, I do include three different types of beans in my chili recipe — light red kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans.
The type and amount of spices included depend on how “heart-warming” you want your chili to be. The chili I’ve had in Texas ranged from reasonably hot to just shy of unreasonable. Some menus posts chile symbols next to an item to denote its fiery status. The more chile symbols, the hotter the chili. One time, my wife was unable to finish an almost-unreasonable (one and a half chile symbols) cup of chili, which forced me to eat mine and hers, despite strong objections from my hiatal hernia.
Another thing I like about Texas chili is it consists of beef chunks or coarse-ground beef, which gives it a meatier texture. I try to avoid ground beef that’s too lean. Like my hamburgers, I think 85 percent lean is best for chili.
If you’re concerned about fat content, you could replace ground beef with ground turkey or even ground chicken, but it’s not something I’d get excited about. I will, however, swap out a pound of ground beef for a pound of ground venison. Since venison is so lean though, I have to add another half pound of ground beef. In this case, use 80 percent lean.
The chili recipe I have put together would probably earn at least one — maybe one and a quarter — chile symbol:
South Georgia chili
1 1/2 pounds coarse ground beef (85 percent lean)
1 large finely chopped onion
1 large finely chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 can (Ro-Tel) mild diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 16-ounce can pinto beans
1 16-ounce can black beans
1 16-ounce can light red kidney beans
2 ounces milk chocolate
Brown hamburger then drain excess grease before adding fresh veggies and spices. Allow fresh veggies to cook until tender then add canned veggies. Add salt and black pepper to taste, then add chocolate. If you want to kick it up another chile symbol, add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of white pepper and/or cayenne pepper.
Allow chili to simmer for one hour then serve with a dollop of sour cream, shredded colby-jack cheese, chopped onions and saltine crackers.