As soon as the leaves start turning colors in northeastern Pennsylvania, my husband, Jon, starts asking for his favorite fall food: venison chili. This hearty, spicy chili loaded with ground meat and peppers really hits the spot after hours spent raking leaves in the chilly autumn air. In my family, it’s also the traditional meal served after the first day of rifle deer season. It really warms up the body after a day spent freezing in the woods. Sometimes it’s the celebratory meal after a successful hunt, and other times the highlight of an otherwise disappointing day. My mother taught me to make it, and I love it because it’s so easy to make and yields enough to freeze for future meals. My husband takes a lot of pride in eating it, knowing he shot the deer used to make it. He says it makes him feel like he is truly providing for his family in a very tangible way. Since not everyone likes venison, or can get it, ground beef is an easy substitute.
2 lbs ground venison or beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, un-drained
3 cups chicken or beef broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
First, pre-chop all your veggies and pre-measure all your spices. Set aside.
Second, coat a large stock pot with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
Third, add oil and minced garlic and sauté until just golden.
Fourth, add chopped onion, green pepper and jalapeno and cook until soft.
Fifth, stir in ground venison, chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Cook, stirring until meat is browned, about five or six minutes.
Sixth, add tomatoes, broth and tomato paste, stir.
Lastly, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered at least 30 to 45 minutes before serving. The taste intensifies the longer it cooks, and will continue to intensify after cooking. Ideally, I like to make my venison chili the night before, so it can absorb all the flavors overnight in the fridge.
If desired, serve with shredded cheese on top and crackers or bread for dipping. Depending on your tolerance for spicy foods, you can add or subtract the peppers to alter the heat. Because my husband likes his food at atomic spiciness levels, he shakes additional pepper powder onto his bowl before eating.