Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Grandmother’s Chili

Bowl of Chili con Carne, made of ground pork, ...

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite things to eat when it’s cold outside is chili. Chili, the real deal, made with red meat. (Chicken chili and white chili are very good, but beef chili is my all time fav!


There is a lot of controversy surrounding the origins of chili as well as how to make the dish.  It all seems to come down to how you like to dress up your favorite chili recipe.  If you ask anyone for a chili recipe these days, chances are that you will get a different recipe from every person. 

I remember making a special trip to the Big City when Grandmother and Aunt Phyllis were getting ready to make it. They’d go to Mecca Coffee to buy the freshest spices–oregano, chili powder and cumin.

More from FCR–

All chili recipes have changed over time with new recipes being created on a daily basis.  But where did it all start?  There are people that believe in the 1840’s Texas cowboys pounded beef fat and dried beef with chili peppers and salt to make a sort of trail food for their treks to the gold fields. They would boil this concoction to make a dish they called chili.

A variation on the cowboy origins of chili recipes says that cowboys would plant oregano, chiles, and onions along their well travelled trails in patches of mesquite to keep foraging cattle from eating them. As they moved along the trails, they would harvest the spices, onions, and chiles and combine them with beef to create a chili recipe called “Trail Drive Chili”.

They mention several ways chili might have been invented. A Texas prison, the army, even Canary Island transplants.

The most plausible origin of chili came in 1828 when J.C. Clopper observed the poor people in San Antonio cutting what little meat they could afford into a has like consistency and stewing it together with as many pieces of peppers as pieces of meat.

So here’s Grandmother’s recipe–

4 or 5 pounds of hamburger (or chili) meat
1 chopped onion
1 large can of tomato juice
3/4 C chili powder
1 T oregano
1 T cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the hamburger and onion together until all the meat is browned and onion soft. Drain fat. (I usually put the cooked hamburger/onion in a colander and rinse the meat to get rid of as much fat as possible.)

Put the meat back in the big pot and add the spices, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well then add tomato juice and simmer for an hour or so before serving.

To make the chili a little spicier, I sometimes add a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes (like for topping a pizza.)

That’s it–the world’s best chili (as far as I’m concerned, anyway.) The fresher the spices, the more flavorful the chili.

I’ve heard of people who make chili without any tomato products in it at all, but I’ve never tried it. I’m willing, though, if someone wants to bring over a bowl.

Do you have a favorite chili recipe? Does it have ground hamburger in it or are you a “healthy” or even vegetarian chili eater?

If you have a favorite chili recipe, why not post it in comments? I wonder how many different chili recipes are out there?