Beans or No Beans will be the question this weekend when Hickory Hollow Campground hosts their 14th annual Chili Cook-Off contest on Saturday, August 21. When your packing your groceries for the weekend camping trip, make sure to include some tomato sauce and chili powder so you can whip up your version of the best tasting chili and enter our Chili Cook-off. The festivities take place under the pavilion at 5 pm with the campers judging their favorite chili and the winner being crowned this year’s “souper” cook.
Chili cookoff contests have been popular since the first one was held at the Texas State Fair in 1952. The original contest had 55 contestants with Mrs. F.G. Ventura of Dallas being crowned the winner with her amazingly simple chili recipe. The cook-off was a brainstorm idea of author Joe E. Cooper who wanted to find a unique way to promote his new cookbook “Beans or No Beans.” Little did Joe know that his book would become the authority on chili history and lore, the book all other chili authors would refer to for the next 50+ years.
Today, Chili is pretty much a stable in every household whether you are looking for a quick crockpot meal to prepare ahead of time or hosting a football party on the weekend for a crowd. Chili recipes have developed over the last century and the variations are endless. There is traditional Texas style chili, white chicken chili, three chilies chili, pumpkin chili, seafood chili, meatless chili, beans or no beans chili, and thousands of additional variations to try. You will never run out of ideas to make an interesting new dish called chili. But let’s take a look at how to make the perfect pot of traditional chili based on famous chili judges’ recommendations.
First of all, pepper is very important. Flecks of black pepper are frowned on, so serious cooks substitute white pepper for the “up front” bite. “Up front” bite is the tingle from the pepper that you taste immediately; the “back bite” is the tingle that comes later, usually from cayenne. Tomato sauce is the preferred base because you taste no offensive seeds or skin. Canned beef or chicken stock is preferred in place of water for thinning the mixture to avoid the chlorine taste associated with tap water.
Over the years, chili cooks have developed and improved the cooking techniques, with one of the most favored today being the “dump” method. Spices are divided into several portions or “dumps” and then added to the pot at varying time intervals. This process ensures flavorings like garlic don’t lose their potency by overcooking. Look for a chili powder that includes ingredients like: cumin, oregano, and garlic for the best bowl of red chili. Cumin is the spice that gives chili its distinctive aroma, and red pepper or cayenne is what puts the back bite in the chili. This is what grabs you a few seconds after taking that first bite.
If you plan to enter the Hickory Hollow Chili Cookoff this weekend, here is a copy of Mrs. F. G. Ventura’s 1952 recipe to help you get started. What spicy new flavor or spin will you be using when you whip up your next batch of chili? Will it have all the flavors of the first chili, or will you opt to try something new like owner Doug’s Shrimp Chili from last years contest….maybe NOT!
While you are tasting the variations of chili this weekend at the campground here is some fun trivia to share as well.
- U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson loved chili. Lady Bird Johnson had so many requests for her recipe that she had it printed on cards and mailed out.
- William Gerard Tobin, former Texas Ranger, and advocate of Texas-type Mexican food negotiated with the US government to sell canned chili to the army and navy.
- In 1977 chili was proclaimed the state food of Texas
- In 1895 chili was sold from the back of a wagon for 5 cents a bowl and crackers were included for free.
- In 1921 the chili of Lyman T. Davis was canned and sold as “Wolf Brand Chili.” In 1924 oil was discovered on Mr. Davis property and he sold the chili business. The new owners used Model T Ford trucks with cabs shaped like chili cans and painted to resemble the Wolf Brand label. A live wolf was caged in the back of each truck. Today the company is owned by Stokley-Van Camp in Dallas, Texas.
- Texas prisons and the inmates used to rate jails on the quality of their chili, the one thing they missed most when leaving.
- Christopher Columbus discovered chili peppers when he discovered the Americas in 1493.
- There are 140 varieties of chili peppers grown in Mexico alone.
- A teaspoon of red chili powder meets the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin A, needed for vision and bone growth and Vitamin C.
- Chili peppers originated in Mexico, but today China is the world’s biggest producer of green chili peppers.
- Chili peppers have been part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC.
- Chili peppers help you burn more calories by raising the body’s core temperature during digestion and send a trigger to the nervous system to produce more healthy fat.
- The Japanese used to put chili peppers in their socks to keep their toes warm instead of eating them.
So when you’re making your chili this weekend, remember that just like that spicy chili, Hickory Hollow Campground offers the perfect blend of flavors and heat for your summer getaway, a taste you can’t forget.