As a native Wisconsinite, chili is very important to me. I don’t consider it chili unless eating it is close to a religious experience. My insides squirm uncomfortably whenever I see someone buy chili seasoning mix, or a package of “Just add water!” premade chili.. or worse – the dreaded chili in a can.
Much like the apples, pumpkins, and the countless varieties of squash that come into season in these increasingly crisp and cool months, chili is best when made and eaten in the fall. Though I would argue that chili season even extends well into February and March – as long as you have to wear a sweatshirt or coat outside, there should be chili to warm your bones inside. Given this, I felt it not only necessary to share this particular chili recipe with the world, but a moral obligation to those still eating their chili out of a can. It’s more work than simply throwing the contents of a can into the microwave, but I sincerely believe it is worth it. My favorite thing to do with a crisp fall day is to take an afternoon to relax and make chili.
I have based this recipe off of several recipes. Changing bits and pieces, quantities and qualities, and adding new ingredients of my own to make something unique. Some of the recipes I found online, with a few added twists courtesy of my own experimentation, as well as observations I’ve made while spending time cooking with my dad – whom I can thank for sparking my interest in cooking in the first place. Chili, when in a tightly sealed container, freezes well and sometimes even comes out of the freezer tasting better than it did when it was fresh. So a batch of chili you make in the fall could last all winter, but if you make it correctly, you won’t have any leftovers.
What you will need:
Large Pot – 1
Large Frying Pan – 1
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 to 3 tablespoons, as needed
Wooden Spoon – You will need to stir frequently
Large bowl – 1
Small container with lid – to mix herbs spices
Stage 1 – Base
Tomato Sauce – 2 regular sized cans (15 ounce) 2 small cans (8 ounce)
Petite Diced Tomatoes – 1 large can (28 ounce)
Kidney Beans – ¾ can Dark Red, ¾ can Light Red
Corn – 3 ears fresh
Stage 2 – Veggies
Green Pepper – 1
Mushrooms – 8 ounces Baby Portabella
Sweet Yellow Onion – 1 large
Fresh Garlic Cloves – 3
Stage 3 – Meat
Ground Pork – 2 pounds
Stage 4 – Seasoning
Sugar – 3 teaspoons
Flour – 2 tablespoons
Ground pepper – 1 teaspoon finely ground
Garlic Powder – 1 tablespoon
Cayenne Pepper – 1 teaspoon (depending on strength)
Chili Powder – 1 ½ tablespoons
Onion Powder – 1 tablespoon
Fresh Basil – 2 teaspoons (roughly, more if desired)
Cumin – 2 ½ teaspoons
Paprika – ½ teaspoon
Stage 5 – Finishing
Brown Sugar – about 1 to 2 teaspoons
Sharp Cheddar Cheese – at least 8 ounces, shredded
Kosher Salt – to taste
Beer – 1 can of your beer of choice. I would avoid overly dark beers like Guinness. A lager, amber ale, or IPA would work just fine.
To start, gather your ingredients. Take the canned goods from Stage 1, and add directly to pot. Turn your burner on the lowest possible heat setting. Using a sharp knife cut the corn off of the cob and add to the pot with the tomato sauce, petite diced tomatoes, and kidney beans. Stir.
Don’t worry about the heat setting; you won’t have to change it throughout the cooking process.
Place your large frying pan on the stove and set the heat for medium, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Sometimes I like to add a small amount of butter for added flavor. Dice your onion and add to pan before the rest of the veggies, but don’t overcook. Peel and dice your garlic, add to onion. While the onions and garlic are cooking, dice your green pepper and mushrooms. Add to onions and cook until soft. This is a matter of preference; remember they will be simmering for several hours in the chili. I like mine cooked thoroughly. You may need to add more olive oil as the veggies cook, there is a lot going on in the pan and you want to keep everything lubricated and moving around to avoid burning.
Once your veggies are cooked, drain excess oil and add to the pot and stir. Remember to stir occasionally, as it should be hot by now.
Clean the pan. Dry thoroughly and return to burner. Add enough olive oil to coat. Brown your ground pork until it resembles cooked hamburger. I prefer smaller chunks as to not overwhelm the chili. This is a lot of meat. Once cooked, add to the pot and stir. Remember to stir your chili occasionally to avoid burning.
It is time for the most important part: the flavor. Combine the herbs and spices in a small container, you can either stir to mix, or cover and shake. The choice is yours.
Remember to stir your chili.
Once combined, add slowly to the pot. I like to sprinkle a little bit over the top, fold it in, and repeat until all of the seasoning has been incorporated.
It’s time to crack open that beer. Poor enough into the mix so that it becomes just a little bit too watery looking, for me this takes the entire can. The idea being that this extra liquid cooks off, concentrating the flavors. Dispose of any leftover beer (if any) in whatever way you see fit. You can always add more later if the chili needs more liquid. You will be cooking this down quite a bit. Toss in the brown sugar and stir. Shred your cheese and add directly to the pot, stirring to incorporate.
This is a recipe that requires a bit of tender loving care. Keep the heat on its lowest possible setting. Let it simmer for the next few hours, I like to cook it for at least three. Stir every ten minutes or so to keep the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot. It should reduce by about 1/4th before serving, but the longer you cook it, the better it will get.
Serve topped with the shredded cheese of your choice, crackers, and a glass of milk.
Recipe inspirations thanks to: 2AM Chili, my own recipe, my dad’s recipe.