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It is Chili Cook-off Time, Special on Mild Chile and Cumin

By Jane Butel  July 14, 2021

This month is a paramount month for chili cookoffs and the original Chili Society, the Chili Appreciation Society,  CASI for short  is staging July as "Friends of CASI month.  The very first  CASI chili cook-off was staged in Terlingua, TX in  1967.  This early cookoff was used to promote Frank X. Tolbert's "Bowl o Red"  cookbook  and to spark the difference between Texas style Bowl o Red chili and eastern chili.   Frank, a columnist for the "Dallas Morning Star" wrote a number of books, one which is titled "A Bowl of Red", which is a worthwhile read.  Frank even had a chili parlor for a while in Dallas, where I ate upon occasion and always enjoyed his wit.

There is literally tons of chili lore.  It seems that the Texas State Fair conducted the very first Chili Cookoff in 1952--however the Chili Appreciation Society  is credited with doing the most to chronicle and sanction chili cookoffs which raise  about a $1,000,000 a year for charities.  Terlingua, TX  was the headquarters for a great number of years for the annual cookoff where the winners of various sanctioned cookoffs competed.

The International Chili Society was formed in the 1970's and was promoted a great deal by Caroll Shelby of race car fame.  Coincidentally, he had his own chili mix  and his company was the original packager of my Pecos Valley Spice Co chile powder products.

You might wonder about the different spellings of chili and chile.  Chili is the spelling for the dish and chile is the spelling for the pod, an integral and critical ingredient of chili.

For a number of years, I was quite involved with the chili cookoffs, conducting the very first one in New York state at the Belmont Race Track near New York City where I lived at the time.   One very clear memory is that the directors of Belmont wanted me to "give back" to the general population attending the race that day.  The condition was that I had to serve 1200 free samples of award winning chili, my Pecos Valley Spice Co. Bowl of Red to any who wished it.  It was quite a chore, I had to rent a panel truck to get the chili to the track and bring several of my employees from the spice company to help serve the samples and assist in running the competition.

Frequently, I have been a judge at the ICS cookoffs and only judged once at Terlingua. Also, I worked with the Senators of Texas and New Mexico to try to get chili to be the official national dish of America.  We finally gave up as it was very time consuming.

In spite of the heat outdoors, chili tastes great any time of year and is especially good on a hot day, offering a calming effect.  My all-time favorite is a recipe my Grandfather developed after tasting lots of chili which was cooked by the "cookies" who ran the cook wagons and cooked for the cowboys running cattle to the rail head in Dodge City, KS where my Grandfather was positioned  as the lead executive of the Santa Fe railroad.  The recipe he titled was Bowl o Red--the same as Frank's book title.

To inspire you to cook some chili, we are placing a three day sale on our mild chile powder at 25% off and also offering our very fresh cumin at 25% off (cumin is the essential herb for chili). For best flavor from cumin, add half the amount the recipe calls for to the pot while cooking and half just before serving.  Just as a  hint--for the best all time flavor, keep the chile powder and the cumin in glass jars in the refrigerator or the freezer, where they will stay fresh and good forever. 

A great tip is that the cooked chili freezes very well when packaged in freezer weight packaging--so you only have to cook it occasionally, and enjoy the fruits of your labor the rest of the time.

To get the greatest pleasure out of  your bowls of red, I am offering both the 2nd  (on right) and the 3rd  (on left) edition of best selling Chili Madness cookbooks on sale for this week until Sunday, July18.  Of course, I will autograph them as you like!

Our next day class is on Grilling Fun, set for July 29 at 5 PM.  I still have openings and am placing them on a s pecial  of 20% off for the next three days or until Saturday, July  17 at midnight. 

Here's my all-time favorite Bowl o Red recipe--


The influence behind this recipe came from my maternal grandfather, who was in charge of the line extensions going west from Topeka, Kansas.  While working with the Santa Fe Railroad, he was stationed a long time in Dodge City, KS which was the end of trail for the cattle drives.  He developed this recipe after commiserating with lots of “cookies,” or trail cooks who cooked for the cowboys bringing cattle up from Texas and Northern Mexico.  It has won numerous chili cook-offs and is one of the really true original chilis. I like to gussy it up with side dishes of Fixin’s ‘n Mixin’s of chopped onion, pickled jalapenos, mixed grated cheddar and Jack cheeses, sour cream garnished with lime wedges edged in powdered mild red chile and a bowl of pequin quebrado  or  minced Habeneros for those who like it red hot! 

Yield:  6 to 8 servings 

  • 2 Tablespoons lard, butter, bacon drippings, or rendered beef fat
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 pounds  beef chuck, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 3 medium-sized garlic cloves, finely minced or to taste
  • 1/4 cup pure ground mild chile
  • 1/4 cup pure groiund hot chile or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin, divided
  • About 3 cups water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  1. Melt the lard in a large heavy pot with a flat bottom and straight sides over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Remove from heat.

  2. Add meat, garlic, ground chiles and ½ the cumin to the pot.  Break up any lumps.  Stir in the water and salt.  Return to heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 2-1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the flavors are well blended. NEVER COVER.  Placing a lid on a stew such as this will steam the meat, toughening it, rather than allowing it to break down and become quite tender.   Add more water if necessary.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding remaining cumin. Serve with fixin’s ‘n mixin’s as noted above.



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