By Stacey S. Whitman
The news is calling for a winter storm and we know the family will be around the house for a few days.
Your freezer may look like our freezer, and be full of good venison from the last hunting season.
So, now the decision is “what should we fix” for the bad weather approaching.
I pull out a weathered recipe card, if you can even dignify it with that name, and decide to make my dad’s “famous” chili recipe.
The piece of scrap paper with a little cartoon on top from an old pad of paper holds the treasured ingredients my husband scribbled down while he watched years ago as my dad put it all together.
Recently, my mom recalled how my dad concocted this masterpiece in the era before shows like America’s Test Kitchen. “It was a cold winter day and we drove through Wendy’s restaurant. Your dad said that chili sounded good to him so he ordered it. After he finished it, he stopped for a moment and said, ‘I could make this at home and add some different flavors.’ A few weekends later, he went to the grocery store and came home with the things he thought would be good, and that is how this legendary chili began.”
Basically, he made it more “Southern.”
Over the next few years, when company came over my parents’ house, they served dad’s chili.
People were frequently surprised by the sweetness and thickness of the chili as they would take the first bite.
This hearty and meaty chili warms all of your senses.
Now that I am grown and have a family of my own, we serve this dish when a good winter storm is approaching, we often walk to the freezer and take out some ground venison (that is our special addition to the recipe) and make dad’s legendary recipe.
Of course, add some chili powder if you want a little heat.
Granddad’s Chili/ Venison Version:
1 package (1 lb.) of regular sage sausage or maple sausage if you like even sweeter chili – we recommend Jimmy Dean brand
1 lb. ground venison (drain away any blood, as much as possible, to avoid a “gamey” flavor)
2 packets of onion soup mix such as Lipton’s
2 cans of diced tomatoes (14.5 – 15.5 oz size cans)
1 can of undrained dark red kidney beans (14.5 – 15.5 oz)
1 can of tomato paste (6 oz)
½ cup of warm water
½ cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of yellow mustard
1/3 bottle of Hunt’s Ketchup (No, we are not kidding! We use the 35 oz size, so you will need 11 or 12 ounces of ketchup for this recipe.)
1 teaspoon of garlic salt
Optional: ¼ teaspoon chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot!)
This recipe works really well in a crockpot, but a large 6-quart pot will also do.
Fry the sausage according to the directions and then set it aside and use the grease from the sausage to fry the ground venison. Once the venison is well-browned and thoroughly cooked, drain and combine with the sausage and all the other ingredients in a crockpot (or pot) and stir well.
Cover and heat thoroughly at medium-high heat for at least two hours, checking and stirring every 30 minutes. Add more water if the chili is too thick for your taste. Serve with saltine or Ritz crackers and top with your favorite grated cheese (we like cheddar) and/or sour cream if desired, and enjoy!