Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Green Bay Style "Chili Johns" / "Real Chili" Chili

Chili comes in many varieties...about as diverse as the ethnic mixes of the regions that made each style famous.  One of the oldest and most unusual varieties is that which is known as "Green Bay" Chili or "Chili John" chili.  It predates the similar Cincinnati 5-way by a number of years and traces back to Lithuanian immigrant "Chili" John Isaac, who opened a restaurant in 1913 down by the docks of Green Bay, WI, hanging a simple sign out front that said, "Chili".

"Chili" John Isaac
Not only did John Isaac invent this style of spaghetti-meat sauce-beans on top chili, he also invented the Oyster Cracker, calling upon the Nabisco company for a cracker that would be sized more appropriately for adding to his chili.

Chili John's at one time had 3 locations...Green Bay, Beaver Dam, WI, and Burbank, CA.   All three are still in business, though not affiliated, and only the Green Bay one still serves the completely authentic John Isaac recipe.  You can even order it online!  John Madden, legendary NFL coach and broadcaster, never missed a visit to Chili John's when he covered a Green Bay Packers game.  Fran Tarkenton also was known to have a bowl before playing the Packers at home.

So where does "Real Chili" come into the story?

According to the Real Chili website, Milwaukee's infamous chili restaurant was started by Francis Honish in 1931.   What the website doesn't tell you is that Francis Honish was a former cook at Chili John's in Green Bay.  Hmmm.   There was actually a bit of bad blood and a lawsuit or two over the issue way back when, but time seems to have quelled the implications of chili-theft.   Both chilis are very, very similar in style and taste.  Patrons today probably don't care about the politics involved, they're just glad that they can get a bowl of Green Bay Chili in Milwaukee or Green Bay!

I've eaten at Real Chili and all three of the no-longer-related Chili John's restaurants and no matter what variation you get, it's all good!   This is a very, very close rendition of the original Chili John's chili, though the real recipe is still a secret.

You will need for the Meat Sauce:

1/2 lb. Beef Suet, rendered
1 onion, finely chopped
2 lbs hamburger browned
1 oz. unsweetened Baker's chocolate
3 T chili powder
1 T cayenne pepper (or less if you don't like it hot)
1 T garlic powder
1 T cumin
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t ground cloves
1 T paprika
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3-4 chili peppers, ground finely
2 regular soup-sized cans beef broth (or equivalent made from powdered)

Render the suet in a large pan, remove whatever is left and cook onions until tender. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. When meat is browned, add spices, chocolate, broth,  and vinegar, stirring to mix well. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1½ hours. It should start to thicken. It is best if refrigerated overnight and reheated the following day.

To serve, you will need:

Spaghetti noodles
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Vinegar (I like British Malt Vinegar)
Chopped onions
Warmed kidney beans or chili beans
Franks Red Hot
Oyster crackers
Pickled jalapeno slices

Spoon some cooked spaghetti noodles into a bowl, spoon generous portion of meat sauce on top of that, with some beans, a handful of oyster crackers, and a dash of vinegar.   That's your basic Green Bay Chili.  In addition, you can add any combination of the above toppings to complete your Green Bay Chili experience., greasy, yummy Green Bay Chili!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mom's Chili

When I was growing up, every Saturday, September through April, Mom would make a big pot of chili in the morning.  It would always be gone by the end of the weekend.

Mom with one of her legendary
wild game pies
Mom's chili was what she called "Dodge County Chili", named after the area of Wisconsin where she grew up, but was really her own variation, a much more chili-like variation than what traditionally fit that name.

In Wisconsin, chili is (or was, before the Internet and cable tv cooking shows homogenized a lot of regional cooking) divided into two camps...that which is similar to what Mom made, and what's known as "Green Bay Chili" which will be covered in a future edition of this blog.

Mom's Chili was known far and wide by her friends and family as the best around.  She made it every year for the last day of Deer Hunting season and held an open house on the lake they live on for any and all hunters.  It was a perennial hit!

We lost my Mom to cancer earlier this year.  With the nip in the air now, my thoughts naturally turned to her chili, and I'm going to try to keep up the tradition of making a pot of it every Saturday.

I love chili -- all types and styles -- and though this may not be a true chili by those who make standards on such things, it will always be my favorite.  I hope you'll make a pot of this too and enjoy it as much as I have over all these years.  Thanks, Mom!

You'll need:

1 large can tomatoes (or frozen tomatoes, about a quart)
1 lb hamburger
1 can chili beans or kidney beans
3 stalks celery
1 onion
1 green pepper
2 jalapenos (optional)
1 T Cumin
3 T Chili Powder
Garlic Salt
1 T Beef Boullion powder
1 Quart Tomato Juice
1/2 cup elbow macaroni

Brown the hamburger, toss in the onion, diced, along with the celery and peppers, also diced.  When hamburger is browned and vegetables soft, season with garlic salt to taste, then add the beef boullion, stir in well til dissolved.  Then add the tomatoes, beans and the rest of the seasonings.  Simmer, season with garlic salt and more chili powder if necessary, add the noodles and the tomato juice.   Simmer 30 minutes, serve.