Texas friends might lynch me for calling this chili. By their standards, it ain’t. But this is what I grew up knowing as “chili.” It’s what my mom made, and to this day a big frozen container of it goes along on nearly every trip to visit the big pine. It stores, travels and reheats well. With some extra condiments around camp, you can make it as hot as you want or as Minnesota mild as you want.
Yes, those are beans in the picture—another strike against this as anything a Texan would call chili. Actually this is a Cincinnati-style Chili. In that tradition it’s normally served over cooked spaghetti, and chopped green onions, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream are offered on the table for those who wish to doctor it to their own tastes. I add extra chili powder and hot sauce to mine—especially when I’ve made an extra-mild batch for my wife to enjoy. I like chili that makes me sweat, but she can’t handle that.
You can use any kind of ground meat you like as the base for this recipe. Mom always used hamburger, but we make ours nearly exclusively these days with ground venison or some other kind of wild game meat. Back in the days when I was chasing Snow geese really hard, we ate a lot of this chili with ground goose breast as the meat. We ground it ourselves at a ratio of one slice of fatty bacon to one goose breast fillet.
I’m all for posting up great Texas chili recipes here Under the Big Pine, so if you have a favorite, tell us about it and we’ll get ‘er up. But expand your camp cooking epicurean horizons and give this one a try in the meantime!
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped sweet green bell pepper
- 2 pounds of hamburger
- 2 large cans of sliced or chopped tomatoes
- 2 small cans of tomato paste
- 1-2 cans of kidney or chili beans to suit your taste
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoons white sugar
- 4 teaspoons fresh chili powder
- water to desired thinness of finished chili
- dry spaghetti (whatever shape you like)
- Brown meat in at least two separate batches. I use a big cast iron Dutch Oven in which I’ll eventually cook the chili. Add half the onion and half the green pepper to each batch once the meat starts to brown. Fry slightly. Don’t be afraid to get some color on it. The color is flavor!
- Put all the meat, onion, and pepper back into the pot. Add the tomatoes (including juice), tomato paste, salt, sugar, and chili powder. Stir and add water to desired consistency.
- Bring up to boil, then turn down the stove and simmer for at least half an hour. Low, slow, and longer is better.
- About 15 minutes before you plan to eat add the beans—drained or undrained as you like. Put a separate pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti and cook the pasta per the directions. Drain it off, then put some in the bottom of your chili bowl. Ladle in the chili and add whatever additional condiments or spices you like—no one will take offense under the big pine … I promise!