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VOL. 37 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 15, 2013

Chill in the air means its time for chili

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It’s chili time! I know chili can be eaten year-round and not just in the fall. But when there is a chill in the air, there’s something about a good bowl of hearty chili to banish the chill.

So for me, it’s officially chili time.

Chili is one of those recipes that can be fixed in so many ways that it would be almost impossible to count them. Some make it with cubed steak, some add corn, there is green chicken chili, taco chili, chili con carne, chili with beans, chili without beans, white chili – you get the picture.

I don’t have a certain recipe I use for chili. I usually change it up every time I make it. I think I’m going to make it for dinner tonight – and I’m going to use a bit of cubed sirloin in it, which makes it just a bit heartier and more filling than just ground beef.

Shred some cheddar cheese and top it off with some green onions, and it couldn’t get much better! Simple and easy.

So just who invented chili? According to About.com, there are several theories.

E. De Grolyer, scholar and chili expert, says chili had its origins as the “pemmican of the Southwest” in the late 1840s.

De Grolyer says Texans pounded dried beef, beef fat, chili peppers and salt to make trail food for the ride to the gold fields and San Francisco. The dried mixture was then boiled in pots along the trail, making “instant” chili.

A variation of that theory has cowboys inventing chili when driving cattle.

Supposedly, cooks planted oregano, chilies and onions among patches of mesquite to protect them from foraging cattle. The next time they passed the same trail, they would collect the spices, combine them with beef, and make a dish called “trail drive chili.”

Original San Antonio Chili

2 pounds of lean stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound of pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups of water
2 medium dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
5 dried red New Mexican chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 hot jalapeno, or Serrano chile, seeds removed, finely chopped, or more or less to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 to 3 teaspoons of dried Mexican oregano

Cut the beef and pork into one-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Toss the meat cubes with the seasoned flour. In a skillet, cook the meat in the oil, stirring often. Add the onions and garlic; sauté until softened. Add the water; simmer for one hour.

Soak the dried chiles in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Process the soaked chile peppers in a blender with just enough of the soaking water to make a pureé. Strain out the excess liquid. Add the pureé to the meat mixture along with the remaining ingredients; simmer for one-and-a-half to two hours longer. Serve with cooked pinto beans and rice on the side.

Probably the earliest mention of the dish, though not the name, according to Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach in “The Whole Chile Pepper Book,” was by J.C Clopper. He visited San Antonio in 1828 and commented on how poor people would cut the little meat they could afford “into a kind of hash with nearly as many pieces of pepper as there are pieces of meat – this is all stewed together.”

The first mention of the word “chili” was in a book by S. Compton Smith, “Chile Con Carne, or The Camp and the Field” (1857), which mentions a chili stand at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1902, William Gebhardt, a German immigrant in New Braunfels, Texas, created “chili powder,” which helped popularize chili throughout the Southwest. His brand is still one of the most popular, and specified in many recipes. Source for Gebhardt’s Chili Powder: www.texmex.com.

Variations

Chili con carne is described as a dish of well-seasoned and well-cooked beef with chili peppers.

In New Mexico, chili is often more of a stew with chili peppers and vegetables, with or without meat.

In California, chili is usually a mixture of ground beef and beans, different from any other Southwestern versions.

A Macedonian immigrant, Athanas Kiradjieff, created Cincinnati chili in 1922. He settled in Cincinnati and opened a hot dog stand called the Empress, where he created a chili with Middle Eastern spices.

His “five-way” was a concoction of a mound of spaghetti topped with chili, then with chopped onions, then red kidney beans, then shredded yellow cheese, and served with oyster crackers and a side order of hot dogs topped with shredded cheese!

On the side

Chili is often served with beans on the side, and usually with rice.

Texans will be quick to tell you it’s not chili if it has beans, so you might want to call it chili with beans.

Tortillas are a good choice to serve with chili, as well as cornbread, saltines and oyster crackers.

This recipe for chili is called the Original San Antonio Chili.

I’m not sure whose original recipe it is or even if they live in San Antonio, but I do know it has a lot of chilies in it, and it makes a tasty bowl of chili.

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