April 14, 2012
Chili is one of those things which is made differently around the country. When my Yankee father made chili, it was really a chili sauce used like ketchup. He simmered together about equal amounts of diced tomato, onions and vinegar and added dry pepper and some diced sweet peppers. Once cooked and mashed it would fit down a funnel into ketchup or soda bottles which had been washed and scalded. We used it up in the Fall and with all that vinegar it kept on the shelf good enough for us.
The Chili I am making today started by soaking 3 cups of dry beans overnight. The water should be changed 2 or 3 times and the beans rinsed. To cook the beans I use a pressure cooker. You could just boil them much longer instead, but a pressure cooker saves both time and fuel. I like my beans soft, so I pressure cook them for 40 minutes. Most recipes I have seen say 1/2 hour will do. For conventional boiling allow three times as long at a good boil. The cooking time will also vary by what variety of beans you are using and how long they have been stored. See the links for bean cooking time information. After a number of years on the shelf, it does take a little longer to soak and cook dry beans.
I am adding a little over a pound of meat for nutrition and flavor but it is not actually necessary. If you serve vegetarian beans with a grain like Cornbread your body can assemble complete protein building blocks. A small amount of milk cheese or even eggs can also do this. Because of the long cooking times, the tomato and spices will tenderize and flavor tougher or stronger flavored meats. Most any sort of ground, chopped or diced meat will be fine. I like to brown up the meat a little and break it up into smaller pieces.
All the spicy seasoning and tomato is already in the Salsa I can every Fall. I will use 2 pint jars in this recipe. Because I pressure cook the beans until they are pretty soft, I have to carefully mix them in to keep the beans intact. Otherwise it would begin to look more like Refried beans. Once everything is back in the pressure cooker pot, it is ready to simmer for hours on top of the stove. Only a very low burner setting is needed. A tight and heavy glass cover will prevent loss from evaporation. I like to simmer all day or use a crock pot to slow cook over night.
The Pressure cooker I am using has available two optional covers. This allows me to soak and rinse the beans with the perforated cover. Next I pressure cook the beans. Finally I use the heavy glass cover to simmer the beans. When I am done, I have only one pot and three lids to wash. While browning the meat, I put the beans in a colander. When baking beans that is not necessary. Before getting this pressure cooker, I used a large bowl to soak the beans, and a colander to rinse them. After that I pressure cooked them and moved them to an other pot for simmering. This pressure cooker saves a lot of dish washing! For a small family the 4 quart Presto model 01341 is perfect. The pan is stainless steel but has a thick slab of aluminum on the bottom for even and efficient heat transfer. A 6 quart model is also available, and I believe the same two accessory lids fit both sizes.