There are conflicting stories about the origin of chili con carne, more commonly known as chili. Although most sources agree it hailed from the southwest United States in the late 19th century, it is proudly considered to have Texan roots. Chili’s interesting history includes stories of traveling cowboys using it as a staple on the long trails crossing the country. The need for hot food while traveling saw trail cooks invent a type of stew that contained pounded dried beef, fat, pepper, salt and chili peppers mixed together into rectangles that could be easily re-hydrated with boiling water. This came to be known as “brick chili”. Some say that trail cooks protectively planted in mesquite patches, pepper seeds, oregano and onions that could be used on future trail drives.
The chili pepper itself is most notable. Boasting over 400 different types, it is one of the most widely cultivated crops. This is not surprising since the chili pepper is so versatile – it can be frozen, roasted, dried, smoked or pickled. It’s the use of chili peppers in the famous chili con carne that delivers the most taste in the dish.
Using a slow cooker or large pot to bring ingredients to a long simmer, the best chili has been a source for controversy for decades. There are many varieties of meats that can be used such as beef, pork or even chicken however many disagree on how the meat should be prepared – chunks or ground? – As well as whether beans should be included. Brown the meat first before simmering the mixture with carefully selected peppers, vegetables, spices and unique flavorings for several hours. Experts say chili is finished when no liquid runs out of a spoonful.
Count on D’Arcy’s Meat Market to provide high quality, locally-sourced meats for a hearty chili on a chilly Edmonton night and be sure to post a comment sharing your favorite chili recipe.