A National Argument

By Geekmom

The delightful Southern California Girl has asked me a question that I am almost afraid to answer.  She wants a recipe for chili.  Why am I afraid to answer it?  To be honest, chili is specific to the region of the country to which you were born.  At its heart chili is meat, tomatoes, and spices.  Outside of this, everything is fair game.


So lets start at the basic component of meat.  Nowadays chili is being made from chicken, ground and not, sausage, beef, or (if you are in my part of the world) venison.  Personally, venison chili is the best in my view but I have had it that way for a very long time.  Even the beef is not agreed upon.  Texas chili is notorious for chunks of meat slow cooked to tenderness.  My section of the world uses hamburger.  All this dissension makes me want to hold hands and sing “We are the World.”


Tomatoes can’t be so contentious, right?  Well, it is.  Some people like it chunky with tomatoes and some want it smooth.  So do you use whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes.  Crushed gives that much smoother texture wanted by some parts of this great nation.


Which brings us to the spicing issue, chili is a given. (Look at the name, silly.)  But beyond that, everyone has his or her own mix.  Cincinnati Chili opens the cupboards and just pours everything in.


Beans or no beans…. thick or thin…. ACK!  This makes my head hurt.


Because of this challenge, I am giving you two recipes.  Both use hamburger, but it should be easy enough to brown some chunks and replace it in if that is more your style.  Really, chili is all about what you want… use these just as a guide.


My Mama’s Chili


Fry 1 pound of hamburger in a heavy Dutch oven or large pan.  Add 1/4 c to 1/2 c chopped green peppers and onions to taste.  Salt and pepper to taste.


Add a quart of whole tomatoes, one can of tomato soup, and one or two cans of kidney beans or chili beans (Drain the kidney beans but not the chili beans).  If you are using chunks, this is the stage that you would set it to a simmer and leave it until the meat gets tender.  If using hamburger simmer about an hour.  Stir occasionally.  About fifteen minutes before the end, add 2 T. chili powder (more or less to taste).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If the tomatoes seem sour, add a little sugar.


If you want a thicker chili, at this point fill the soup can with cold water and make a slurry with 3 to 4 T .  Add to the boiling chili.  At this point, stir frequently as the chili powder sinks.


So from a very basic recipe, lets take it to an extreme.  You can use this same basic recipe and change a few things to make Cincinnati Chili.

Changes: Add the spices with the hamburger instead of the green peppers and onions.  Double the amounts of meat and tomatoes.  Use crushed tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes.  Take out the beans if you want.  This should not need the flour and water slurry.  Cook it only about 20 to 30 minutes.  This is served over pasta with cheddar cheese usually.

1 1/2 T vinegar

1 t Worcestershire Sauce

1 clove garlic chopped fine

2 T chili powder

2 t cinnamon

1 t allspice

Cayenne pepper to taste

1 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa


And so my advice to you is just go experiment.  Have fun!




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