My Mom used to make Chili Con Carne long before many Canadians even knew what that meant (in Spanish, “con carne” literally means “with meat”). I have been making chili for my entire adult life, starting with my Mom’s way of making it, and after trying many versions and tweaks, have settled on this recipe as my “go-to” chili recipe. I know some southern chili lovers will only put chunks of beef into their chili rather than ground beef, and others will not put any beans into theirs. Well, mine contains both ground beef and beans. No chili snobbery here! I just do what my taste buds tell me is right. It’s called Football Chili because it makes a really large amount, and, I guess, was meant for the day of “the big game” when all the guys come over to someone’s house to watch football. Well, we aren’t football fans in our house, but I still use this recipe since it’s become my favorite. I make enough to feed an army, then freeze it into meal-sized containers so that we can pull out a ready-made meal any time I don’t feel like cooking.
This is one of those recipes with an armload of ingredients, but don’t let that scare you; putting them together is super easy. The trick is to let it cook for several hours to get the flavours to all go together. The ingredient amounts don’t have to be exact, so don’t worry if you don’t have enough of one thing or another. Although, I recommend that you follow the recipe exactly as written the first time, so you know what it is supposed to taste like, and then you can make changes the next time you make it if you want.
Here we go:
Start by browning the ground beef and Italian sausage in a hot pan. While that is cooking, dice the bacon, then start cutting up your onions, celery, green pepper, and bacon. Crush 3 or 4 good sized garlic cloves. Back to the meat; Once browned and cooked through, pour out onto a paper towel-lined plate to allow the grease to drain off. In the same pan, turn down to medium-high and cook the bacon along with the chopped onion, celery and green pepper (or red if you prefer). Once the vegetables are cooked, stir in the crushed garlic. Cook and stir for about 30 seconds, just until you can really smell the garlic.
While you are waiting for the vegetables to cook, you can open a bunch of cans. I know, I know; How can it be home-made if it comes from a can? It’s the way you combine all of those cans that makes the difference! lol! But seriously, you will need a couple or three cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed. You will also need a can of pork and beans in tomato sauce, and don’t drain those – use the whole thing. Dump all of those beans into a big soup-size pot. You also need a can of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (your choice), a can of tomato paste, and a can (or bottle) of beer. Yes, you can taste the beer first. Take a swig or two.
Okay, back to the cooking vegetables. Once they are cooked, and you have added the garlic, then put them all in the big pot along with the beans. Then use the beer to de-glaze the frying pan. Pour it into the pan while it is still hot, and use a spatula to scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. This is all good flavour that you will then pour into the big pot with the beans and vegetables.
Now it’s just a matter of adding all the ingredients to the pot. Pour in your tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes), tomato paste, add the meat in, and give it all a good stir.
Some beef bouillon really adds to the flavour of chili, and I like to use the brand called “Better than Bouillon”. Whatever your favorite brand, mix up a good tablespoon into a cup of warm water, and add the resulting double-strength beef flavouring to the chili.
Add in all the spices. The chili powder is, of course, the main flavour component here, and since there is such a big pot of chili, we use a lot of chili powder. Make sure your chili powder is fresh. Old chili powder will not have as much flavour as fresh, nor will it have the same smell, or the same heat. There are several different kinds of chili powder out there. What is called for here is the typical red blend that is just marketed as “chili powder”. If you have a favorite chili powder you want to use here (like Ancho or Chipotle), go ahead and substitute up to half of the amount called for with your favorite kind, but then make sure you use the traditional red chili powder for at least half of the amount called for. If you are unsure about the chili powder you are using, it’s always best to use about half of what you think you need, then taste and go from there. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out if you put too much in. Also, you will want to let it cook a while before you taste it. Once all the spices are in the pot, slowly bring the mixture up to a simmer – over no higher than medium heat. Then turn down to low and put the lid on. Cook this way for about 3 – 4 hours, stirring it about once every hour. When you stir it you can taste it then if you like, if you are playing around with different kind of chili powders and trying to get the right amount. Otherwise, just let it cook.
Once the chili has cooked enough, taste it and adjust seasonings if needed. I don’t find it usually needs anything if I have followed the recipe as written. Serve in shallow bowls topped with grated cheddar cheese (optional), and with either buns, or cornbread, or even corn chips on the side. Add a salad if you feel like being healthy. But really, remember all the veggies that went into this pot? And tomatoes are a vegetable. Well, no, actually they are a fruit. But whatever. This chili is a meal in itself, and it really doesn’t need anything else except a bun or cornbread to sop up the sauce with. Yum!
As the name implies, this recipe makes a really big batch, so it’s great for company, the football team, or to make enough to freeze for future meals. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, as it’s really super easy to make. Prepare and cook the day before your company is coming, then reheat the next day. Like many such recipes, it really is better the next day. Serve it to the guys watching the big game, or to the kids after their own game. It’s a recipe that has evolved over the years, as our family’s tastes have changed, until now, where it’s perfect!
- • 2 pounds ground beef
- • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
- • 2 slices bacon, chopped
- • 3 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans (drained)
- • 1 can (14 ounce) pork and beans in tomato sauce
- • 2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice*
- • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste*
- • 1 large yellow onion, diced
- • 3 stalks celery, diced
- • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- • 3 – 4 large cloves garlic, crushed (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
- • I can chopped mild chilies (in the Mexican food section)
- • 4 cubes (or tsps.) beef bouillon dissolved in 1 cup hot water
- • 1 can (or bottle) beer
- • ¼ cup chili powder
- • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
- • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- • 2 tsp. ground cumin
- • 1 tsp. dried basil
- • 1 tsp. salt
- • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- • 1 tsp. paprika
- • 1 Tbsp. white sugar
- Brown the ground beef and Italian sausage together in large fry pan. Drain cooked meat on plate covered with several layers of paper towel. Fry bacon together with onion, celery and peppers until vegetables are translucent and bacon is cooked. Put the cooked meat and vegetables into a large stockpot, and add all remaining ingredients. Stir well to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If the chili seems too watery, simmer with the lid off for the last hour of cooking, and stir often. Serve immediately or cool and keep refrigerated overnight to serve the next day. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheddar cheese (optional). Serve with a nice fresh bun, or a piece of cornbread. Yum!
*You can use crushed tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes with juice. If you do, you won’t need the can of tomato paste