Antique Chili Recipes

Chili has been a celebrated dish in the southwestern United States for perhaps hundreds of years. Here are a few recipes which recall the origins of Chili and foreshadow our long cullinary love affair.

#1 Original San Antonio Chili
U.S. Army Chili
Mrs. Owens Cookbook Chili
Doa Josefita's Ranch-Style Green Chile
Romana's Spanish-American Cookery Chili

#1 Original San Antonio Chili - from the Hidden Kitchens series on NPR.

This original Chili Queens recipe comes from the research library of the Institute of Texan Cultures.

2 lbs beef shoulder, cut into -inch cubes
1 lb pork shoulder, cut into -inch cubes
cup suet
cup pork fat
3 medium-sized onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1-quart water
4 acho chiles
1 serrano chile
6 dried red chiles
1 Tablespoon comino seeds, freshly ground
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
Salt to taste

Place lightly floured beef and pork cubes in with suet and pork fat in heavy chili pot and cook quickly, stirring often. Add onions and garlic and cook until they are tender and limp. Add water to mixture and simmer slowly while preparing chiles. Remove stems and seeds from chile and chop very finely. Grind chiles in molcajete and add oregano with salt to mixture. Simmer another 2 hours. Remove suet casing and skim off some fat. Never cook frijoles with chilies and meat. Serve as separate dish.

U.S. Army Chili - circa 1896

From John Thorn's 1990 article in Chile Pepper Magazine:

Soldiers of the U.S. Army on the Western frontier had been eating chili since the war with Mexico (1846) but not necessarily in their messes. The first Army publication to give a recipe for chili was published in 1896, The Manual For Army Cooks (War Department Document #18). By World War I, the Army had added garlic and beans; by World War II, tomatoes. This was a national pattern: Fannie Farmer did exactly the same (see the editions for 1914, 1930, and 1941)

Recipe is "per soldier".

1 beefsteak (round)
1 tablespoon hot drippings
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons rice
2 large dried red chile pods
1 cup boiling water
Onion (optional)
Cut steak in small pieces. Put in frying pan with hot drippings, cup of hot water, and rice. Cover closely and cook slowly until tender. Remove seeds and parts of veins from chile pods. Cover with second cup of boiling water and let stand until cool. Then squeeze them in the hand until the water is thick and red. If not thick enough, add a little flour. Season with salt and a little onion, if desired. Pour sauce over meat-rice mixture and serve very hot.

Mrs. Owens Cookbook Chili - circa 1880

2 pounds lean beef, cut into -inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
Beef stock to cover
2 tablespoons white sauce (espagnole?see Joy of Cooking)
1 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
5 New Mexican red chiles, seeds and stems removed
Salt to taste
Take the lean beef and put to cook with a little oil. When well braised, add the onions, a clove of garlic chopped fine and one tablespoon flour. Mix and cover with water or stock and two tablespoons espagnole, 1 teaspoon each of ground oregano, comino (cumin), and coriander. Take the dried whole peppers and remove the seeds, cover with water and put to boil. When thoroughly cooked (soft) pass through a fine strainer. Add sufficient puree to the stew to make it good and hot, and salt to taste.

To be served with a border of Mexican beans (frijoles), well cooked in salted water and refried.

Doa Josefita's Ranch-Style Green Chile - circa 1947

This recipe is a classic version of New Mexican green chile. It first appeared in New Mexico Magazine in 1947.

12 large green New Mexico chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large tomato, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 pound round steak, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
2 cups water
Chop the chiles into small pieces, the smaller the better. Place the chile and garlic in a skillet. Add the tomato, season with salt and pepper. Add chopped round and fry in skillet.

Add 2 cups of water to the fried meat. Boil for 10 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Romana's Spanish-American Cookery Chili - circa 1929

From a California-based cookbook, edited by Pauline Wile-Kleeman.

2 pounds lean beef
1/4 pound beef fat
12 large red chile peppers -- OR to taste
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 pods garlic
2 teaspoons chopped oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup minced onion
beef stock -- as needed
salt and pepper -- to taste
Remove the seeds and veins from the chile peppers, place in sufficient hot water to cover, bring to boiling point, and cool in the water, drain and remove the pulp with a spoon. Cut the meat and suet in 3/4 inch cubes, heat the oil and fry the meat and suet to a light brown, then add onions and garlic and continue to cook, stirring continuously; before the onions start to brown add chile pulp, paprika, stir a few minutes, then add oregano, salt and pepper and sufficient stock to finish cooking till the meat is tender. Serve with beans or Spanish rice.

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Copyright © 1994-2006 Wayne Preston Allen. All rights reserved..