Carl’s Corner – Stellar Choices for Chili (and Wine)
The first Taste of Texas event for 2024 comes early on Sunday, 07-January-2024, and will feature Stellar Choices for Chili with three types accompanied by six (6) delicious wines from the TWC winery partners, Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. It will be fun to compare and contrast the bold flavors in the bowls to those in the bottles.
There will be two sessions – 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm – held in the TWC Event Center. Registration and ticket purchase is now available on the www.texaswinecollective.com website. Advanced ticket purchase is required in order to prepare the chili and the venue.
The chili styles and accompanying wines for this event are as follows.
White Bean Chili with Chicken
McPherson Cellars Roussanne Reserve 2021 Texas High Plains
McPherson Cellars Counoise 2022 Texas High Plains
Rich Vegetarian-Style Chili
Lost Oak Winery Mourvedre 2021 Texas High Plains
Lost Oak Winery Holiday Red N.V. American
Hearty Texas-Style Beef Chili (Chili con Carne)
Brennan Vineyards Buffalo Roam 2021 Texas (Cabernet Franc blend)
Brennan Vineyards Buffalo Roam Reserve 2019 Texas (Syrah-Cab Sauvignon Blend)
Corn(bread) Cake and Crackers
When it comes to chili, there are different schools of thought in terms of where the dish originated. Some say the American Southwest, others believe it has roots in Mexico, while connections can also be made to Spain and South America. No matter the actual origins, chili has become a staple of American cuisine, and is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. The dish is typically made with beef, tomatoes, and a variety of spices, and can be as simple or as complex as the cook desires. There are endless variations of chili, but the common denominator is that it should be hearty, filling, and delicious.
Historians often cite Texas as the birthplace of chili con carne (red chili with meat) the Official State Dish of Texas as designated in 1977. Texans celebrate chili in grand style at the famous Terlingua International Chili Cook-off in far west Texas (57th annual scheduled in 2024). The most heated issue over chili in Texas is whether it should contain beans. We should hold that discussion until later. But how did chili crop up in Texas? And who can take the credit?
People in the Americas farmed chile peppers as far back as 10,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until Spanish explorers of the New World carried peppers back to Europe in the 1500-1600s that spicy dishes became a part of the peoples’ cuisine. The dish we know as chili calls on red chile peppers for its signature heat and reddish color.
Historians have found evidence that the ancient Aztecs made a stew that resembled modern chili. Another legend notes a nun in a Spanish convent in the 1700s who followed a recipe from the Jumano tribe in West Texas that described a stew with venison, chile peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Immigrants from the Canary Islands, then a territory of Spain, were brought to San Antonio in 1731 and introduced a chili-style dish using peppers and dried cumin with tomatoes and meat.
One of the earliest descriptions of chili comes from an 1828 journal recounting a visit to San Antonio that described "a kind of hash with nearly as many peppers as there are pieces of meat.” Cowboys on cattle trails (most of whom were Mexican) and gold-seekers (called forty-niners) on their way to California used a mix of beef pounded with lard, peppers, and salt to preserve the meat as a food staple for long journeys. Just add a portion of this mixture to a kettle of boiling water, add flour or cornmeal for thickening, and you had a satisfying and filling dish. Cowboys and Texas Rangers were known to carry a similar mixture called "chili bricks". A part of this block plunged into boiling water transformed it into a convenient, filling meal.
Mexican women known as the Chili Queens cooked and sold chili at San Antonio's Military Plaza as early as the 1860s. Customers often ordered chili with tamales or beans and a tortilla. A San Antonio chili stand at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair introduced many Mid-Westerners to the Texas-born dish. Soon, chili parlors began cropping up all over the Midwest and elsewhere in the United States. One variation called Cincinnati Chili was created in 1922 by Greek immigrants, a dish of beef chili poured spaghetti and topped with mounds of cheddar cheese. Unlike "Texas red" chili, New Mexico's chili verde typically uses the green Hatch chile as a key ingredient. In New Orleans, Texas chili is baked and served over al dente rice, similar to other dishes like etouffée well-known in Cajun cuisine. Mexican pork chili (chili verde) is often baked into a casserole-style dish and served over tortilla chips or flour tortillas, a version of chili nachos. These variations can be made full of flavor with a preferred level of spiciness to give the tongue a nice warm sensation.
Chicken chili has become popular as people tend to eat less beef and is often enhanced by the addition of white beans or hominy. A good way to use leftover turkey from the holidays is to make a pot of turkey chili with black beans flavored with crushed tomatoes and chili spices. In today’s society vegetarian options have become commonplace so it is not surprising that vegetarian chili has become popular. The key is to include enough sturdy veggies to match the texture of meat and get enough spices into the blend to create a bold palate-pleasing sensation.
In many parts of the world, chili is a stew that typically contains beans, tomatoes, and a variety of spices. This is especially true when meat is unavailable. Indian nations of the American West embodied this concept as they kept a pot of hot water with various ingredients over the fire all the time. When hunting was successful, meat was added. In more difficult times, whatever veggies and other edibles could be scrounged were the stew ingredients.
The International Chili Society, which holds the World Championship Chili Cook-off, divides chili into four categories: traditional red, chili verde, homestyle chili, and veggie chili. According to ICS purists traditional red chili hasn't changed much over the years and consists of meat, red chili peppers, and spices—with no beans, rice, pasta, or other fillers, aside from vegetables.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what makes the best chili. However, there are some common elements that are often found in Texas chili - beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and spices like chili powder, cumin, and garlic. According to most Texans, Real Chili does not contain beans. When, and if, beans are added, the most common are pinto beans which were and still are an important staple of the American West. So, if you are not averse to adding beans to your chili, there are options. However, in Texas, it is most often politically correct to call such a dish a meat and bean stew rather than chili.
The Surprising (and Speculative) History of Chili by Mary Claire Lagroue, Updated on 27-Jan-2023
The History Of Chili: Where Does This American Staple Really Come From? by Maria Jiméne, Nov 4, 2022, Spicy Food. https://greengoscantina.com/the-history-of-chili-where-does-this-american-staple-really-come-from/