The end of summer and early fall are a time to cook big pots of winter food: chowders, soups, stews and chili to be canned or frozen and pulled out as needed over the coming months. We have a four-gallon, heavy-gauge stainless steel pot that is ideal for this kind of cooking. Three-and-a-half gallons equates to 56 cups, enough one-cup servings for 28 meals for the two of us.
No two pots of chili are ever the same. One year I might have three different kinds of beans to start with. Another year I might have only one kind. When we lived in California, I used fiery hot chili peppers we purchased at the Asian farmer’s market to give the chili a real kick. Other years, like this year, I’ve gone with a more mellow, savory blend of spices. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of chili and a hunk of fresh-baked cornbread slathered in butter when it’s negative 40 outside and the wind is howling.
*****Chili Done Large*****
- 12 cups dry beans (equal parts pinto and black work well)
- 3 1/2 pounds tri-tip steak cut into pieces that are approximately 1/2″ square and about 1/4″ thick.
- 1/2 lb thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
- 6 pounds diced tomatoes (with their liquid). Canned or fresh
- 24 ounces tomato paste
- 4 cups sweet corn
- 4 cups water (approximately)
- 10 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
- 4 sweet onions (such as Mayan, Walla Walla or Vidalia) chopped coarse
- 1 tablespoon cumin (to mix with the tri-tip)
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin (to add to pot while cooking)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (for mixing in with the tri-tip and cumin)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (for pan-frying the tri-tip)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (for sautéing the onions & garlic)
- 1 tablespoon dry, crushed oregano
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon smoked sea salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (find this in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
- 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- Soak the dry beans in a large pot. A good way to do this is to add about 3 times as much water as beans and bring the beans to a boil for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 6 to 8 hours. There’s nothing wrong with the thick, dark colored water this produces, but I pour it off to get a cleaner chili.
- Combine the tri-tip, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon cumin in a large mixing bowl, mix thoroughly
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the tri-tip mixture. Stir frequently until meat is cooked through. Pour the mixture back into the mixing bowl and set aside.
- Fry the bacon pieces over medium-high heat, just until done. (They should be tender, not crisp.) Remove from heat and drain on paper towel and set aside.
- In a glass (non-reactive) bowl, mix together the tomato paste and about 3 cups of water and set aside
- In a large, heavy-gauge pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions. Stir frequently until onions just begin to turn translucent and stir in the garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste with the onions and garlic in the large pot.
- Stir in the beans and all the spices and seasonings. Bring to a simmer and cook for an hour on low heat.
- Stir in the bacon, the tri-tip and the sweet corn. Add a cup of water if the chili is too thick. Bring back to a simmer and give the chili a taste.
- Add additional seasonings as desired. Additional tomato paste will thicken the chili.
Chili is always better if you let it sit for a few hours or even a day or two before digging in. Ladle into bowls, top with shredded cheddar cheese, and serve with corn bread, sourdough bread, or crackers. Bring on the winter!