Okay, the first thing I have to say about this recipe is that my daddy always made the chili for all the big gatherings, no matter what the occasion. He was called on mainly because his chili was the best. I think it’s the unexpected combination of spices that he put together that makes it so good, the shots of vinegar and dashes of celery salt and oregano. Daddy’s recipe won me my second championship at the Saint George Island Chili Cook-off, and nowadays I’m the one to bring it to gatherings. I must warn you: This is not a small recipe. I tried to cut it in half but it just didn’t taste the same. So get out your biggest pot and freeze half of this batch for later. Serve it up with sour cream, grated cheese, and saltines.
8 pounds 90% lean ground beef or chuck
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large red onions, chopped
4 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (16-ounce) can Bush’s Chili Beans (the one with the yellow label), with liquid
2 (30-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
½ teaspoon hot sauce (I use Texas Pete)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Sour cream, grated cheese, and saltines, for serving
1. In a very large pot over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 12 minutes. Drain the fat from the pan and set the meat aside.
2. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the onions, jalapeños, green and red bell peppers, and garlic and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Return the beef to the pot and stir in the chili beans, kidney beans, stewed and diced tomatoes, vinegar, hot sauce, sugar, chili powder, cumin, oregano, all three salts, and the cayenne. Make sure everything is mixed well.
4. Reduce the heat so that the chili simmers and cook for about 4 hours so that the flavors will blend completely. It’s got to simmer that long with all the seasonings to be good. At this point, add the ground cinnamon, if you’d like. (Daddy didn’t add cinnamon but I like the way it makes the chili wake up.)
5. Serve right away with sour cream, grated cheese, and saltines or let cool and then cover and refrigerate overnight (it’s even better reheated the next day) or freeze for up to a month.