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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Venison Chili

My husband leaves for hunt camp early Tuesday morning. One of the traditions they have is to take a meal made with venison from last year's kill. It is supposed to bring good luck for this year's hunt. One of the guys is bring venison sausage. I'm still working on getting his recipe. I'm making venison chili for them.

Venison Chili Reducing

Venison chili or at least the way I make it looks very much like beef based chili. Don't let this picture fool you either. This is a large batch in my largest stock pot that is a 20 qt capacity. Like many things I make, there isn't an actual recipe. What is important is using good quality ingredients. For this batch I will start with 2 lb ground venison, 1 lb bacon, 5 lb cooking onions, 1 spanish onion, 2 stalks celery, about 1/2 green pepper, 3-4 cloves minced garlic, home canned or frozen tomatoes, dried or home canned kidney beans, about 1 tbsp cocoa powder, about 1 tbsp brown sugar, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and filtered water. I have been fairly specific about certain ingredients for a reason. Onions are a key ingredient. I like to use cooking onions for flavour and heat. A spanish onion provides sweetness to balance any sharpness to the cooking onions. I will only use home canned or home frozen tomatoes if fresh is out of season. Home canned or frozen tomatoes impart an almost fresh taste that commercially canned tomatoes seem to lack and there is none of the tinny flavour some commercially canned tomatoes have. That is important because that tinny flavour throws off the final flavour of the chili. Cocoa powder add depth and colour to the final chili. It's not something that when you taste the chili you can say "hey, that's cocoa"! So it is one of those ingredients that works in the background adding to the final results without being obvious. Brown sugar, preferrably organic, melds the flavours. Again, this should not be an obvious flavour but one that works in the background. I put kidney bean in my chili, both beet and venison. They add protein, body, texture and visual appeal. However, I willonlyuse dried or home canned kidney beans. These lack the salt of some commercially canned kidney beans but more important they have a fresher flavour. Bacon also plays a key role in venison chili. Some like to use ground pork but to me the bacon just says so much more and it imparts that all important mouth feel. Filtered water is also important as it will not impart any off flavourings to the final chili. So that's the basic ingredients.

Method: First, if using dried kidney beans, allow to soak overnight then drain. Get your mis en place in order especially for the seasonings and vegetables. Guestimate with the seasonings. I'd say I used about 1/4 c chili powder, 1/2 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp onion salt, 1 tsp garlic salt, and 1 tbsp cumin but that can always be adjusted as you are cooking. Once started, you do not want to find out you are missing an ingredient. For the seasonings, I use a larger bowl and mix them together before adding to the chili. Once you have your mis en place in order, it is time to start cooking! Cut the bacon across the strips in about 1/2-inch increments. Pan fry the bacon until browned but not crispy. Remove the pieces from the pan reserving the grease. Allow the bacon pieces to drain on a paper towel while reheating the grease. Add the ground venison to the pan and allow to brown. Do not over cook! Remove from the pan and allow to drain. Venison is quite lean so needs the extra fat but you still don't what a lot of extra fat.

Now the fun starts. Put the chopped vegetables into a large stock pot including the garlic and if you are using dried beans add them now. Do not add any seasonings yet! Some will sautée or even lightly heat the vegetables. I prefer to lightly heat the vegetables then add the browned venison and bacon pieces. Pour in 1 -2 quarts of home canned tomatoes (quart = 32 oz) and stir well. Add a little filtered water if the mixture is too dry. Bring the meat and vegetable mixture to a boil then reduce to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the onions are translucent. Now it is time to add the cocoa and brown sugar and if you are using canned beans, add them now too. Note the depth of the colour and add up to a 1/2 tbsp if the colour is too bright but keep in mind the chili powder and other seasonings will add colour depth as well. Now add the other seasonings and mix well. Waft the smell using your hand to gently bring the smell towards your nose. Then do a small taste test putting a tsp of chili mixture into a bowl then tasting. Careful of the taste testing as you can go through a lot of chili that way! A good idea is to get another guinea pig aka family member to do a taste test as well. My husband loves doing this and has become quite an expert of "yep, needs more garlic" even if it's cheesecake. All kidding aside, what you want is a total melody of smell and flavours. If all goes well there will be no seasoning adjustments needed. This will give you a nice chile eveyone likes without being a mouth burner. If you want more heat, add either chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper or hot sauce.

Oh I almost forgot, I love serving chili with homemade sourdough bread. I make an entry for the starter and bread recipe shortly.

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