Chili is always the first meal of the holiday season for me. One of the great holiday traditions in my family is having a pot of chili on hand the day everyone arrives for the holidays. My grandmother started this when I was little. If you were among the first to arrive, you got to enjoy the company of a small gathering of extended family in relative quiet before the holiday got into full swing. If you arrived later, you got my grandmother's undivided attention and a bowl of chili that had been simmering on the stovetop since mid-afternoon. I was the last to arrive one Christmas, rolling in from Madison at about 11:00 PM. My grandma was waiting up for me, and she and I watched Johnny Carson together over a bowl of some highly concentrated chili goodness that warmed my heart.
My mother carries on the tradition as me and my siblings and our families gather in Madison for Thanksgiving. My mom has her own recipe and has dried beans cooking already for tonight's dinner when my sister arrives from the north-western Chicago suburbs. This recipe is committed to her memory, and hers alone. My grandmother's recipe was made available to all on her cooking show "5 Minutes with Dolores Allen" on WDOR radio, and was then published in her 1989 cookbook "Door County Recipes Old and New and a Little Local Lore". Here it is verbatim:
This may not be the way Mexicans or Texans make chili.....but ti's the way I like it!
2 lbs ground beef
3 large onions, chopped
Salt & Pepper
Brown the meat with the onions and cook for about 30 minutes.
1 qt. canned tomatoes (or a large can of tomato juice).
Simmer, covered, about an hour.
3 cans chili beans or kidney beans, drained
1 package chili seasoning
Simmer 15 minutes more.
I like to make this ahead of time, and let it stand for the flavors to blend, and then reheat when ready to serve. If you want "Chili Mac", add cooked macaroni or spaghetti.
Here is the recipe as it appeared in her cookbook. Artwork provided by my mother in her youth. "Door County Recipes Old and New and a Little Local Lore" is still available throughout Door County, WI. You can also find used copies on Amazon
If you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share, please email me at MarysFoodJournal@gmail.com and let me know how you would like to be identified (ie "a reader in Ellicott City" vs your actual name). Include any stories or traditions if you like.