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To make real Texas chili

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Trail chili:
Leftover roast or fried beef cut in cubes -- about 1/3 pound per person
Cold coffee, strained through a clean flour sack -- about a quart for every 3 lbs of meat
Chopped onion -- about 1 medium for every pound of meat
Chili powder -- about 1 tablespoon for every pound of meat
Combine and cook slowly overnight. Skim off grease, stir well and ladle over cornbread or cold biscuits.

Chili was made on rainy days using leftovers or 'range meat', according to Papa. He was my mother's father.
He went up the Chisholm trail three times as a youth, and cooked for ranches until he "got too old and stove up to climb up on the wagons during roundup". That was in the early 1930s, and by then most of his kids were at least in their teens. He died in 1971, aged 92. I used to sit in his lap on his front porch in an old wooden rocker and listen to his memories, before I was old enough for school. I remember he smelled like Prince Albert, snuff, and shaving soap; his house stood about 35 miles from my parents' place, in a little town called Meadow.

He always wore a button-front wool vest with a watch on a chain, and a belt and suspenders both. He wore khaki pants and shined his shoes every day, and I remember he drove a little, old, blue four-door Plymouth until he gave up driving. He had a pecan tree in his yard, and a grape arbor with a bench in the shade; he owned three adjoining lots where the house sat, and plowed a garden with a steel single-row wooden-handled plow every spring that covered two lots. He raised tomatoes and squash and peppers and onions, and some years corn, some years okra.

Papa said a cocinero's job was to keep the crew fed.
That usually meant beans cooked with salt pork -- three times a day -- and fried steak or range meat (javelina, venison, rabbit, sometimes beef), potatoes, and bread and 'lick'. (Lick is usually some variation of honey or molasses cooked down thick with a pinch of salt and a little real butter.) "Oddities" -- honey, or blackberries, for instance -- were very rare treats indeed. Onions, like potatoes and beans, lived in big burlap sacks aboard the chuck wagon and went into the beans, the potatoes, the stews, and the chili. Garlic wasn't as common as it is now but could sometimes be found growing wild, especially north of the Red River; dried peppers and salt came from the general store or could be had from traders.

Once canning came into its own in the 1880s, tomatoes and peaches could be kept on the wagons, and often were. A cook's staples were cloth sacks of flour, meal, salt pork, beans, sometimes a can of lard, always a big bag of ground coffee, salt, pepper, onions, potatoes, and molasses. Bread was corn pone or sourdough. A good cook kept two bottles of whiskey: one empty except the last half-inch or so, for "medicinal purposes", and one well hidden to refill the other from. Whiskey medicated toothache, snakebite, blood poisoning, and in a pinch served as a rough-and-ready antiseptic for everything from mesquite-thorn punctures to bullet wounds. It helped with gout, strains, sprains, rheumatism and ingrown toenail, too, or boils -- in small doses or as poultices, often with red or black pepper and gunpowder or camphor (or all the above), to 'draw out the poison' or deaden the pain awhile. Water could be hard to find and on "dry drives" leftover coffee got recycled into soup or stew or gravy, or just boiled back to drink -- nothing was wasted, I remember Papa saying.

Back to the chili-- on the trail chili was rainy-day food. Think about that a minute. In a saddle sixteen to eighteen hours a day in bad weather, a man in wet clothes -- either because he didn't have a slicker, or because his oilskin slicker made him sweat his flannels or linsey-woolseys plumb through -- could die of hypothermia even in Texas in the summertime. Or of snakebite, or being stomped three feet wide and two inches thick in a midnight stampede, or spilling off a horse and breaking his neck, or ... anyway. Just so y'all know. Texas has some history and some heritage, and it's got very little indeed to do with Geo. W. Bush and his like.

"All hat, no cattle," and it ain't much of a hat, either.

Crockpot chili:

Brown three or four crosscut slices of beef shank and lay in bottom of crockpot, bones and all. Add 2 cups diced onion and 2 teaspoons minced garlic. Pour over one large can crushed tomatoes. Add 1 tablespoon Chili Powder, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, pinch cayenne and 3/4 teaspoon New Mexico Red Chile powder.
Turn heat to high and cover crock pot.

Meanwhile:
Cut up in bite-size chunks about 12 oz boneless lamb
Cut up in bite-size chunks about 18 oz boneless "country style rib" pork
Cut up in bite-size chunks about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds lean chuck or shoulder beef roast
Brown meat in heavy skillet; add to crock pot. Add about 2 to 3 cups water (just to cover).
Once water boils, reduce heat to low. Cover and leave alone overnight to cook.
If you want less grease in your chili, turn the heat off and put the crock in the refrigerator in the morning; in about 3 hours the grease will go solid in clots you can lift right out.

Turn the crockpot back on, add a small can diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers and a small can diced tomatoes with roasted garlic or Mexican spices -- or both if you're feeding a big crowd -- and let cook on low another 2 hours or so. You'll have to stir it pretty regularly during the last stages of cooking.

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