Today is Johnny Cash’s Birthday! Celebrate him and his incredible music by making a nice big pot of his own personal chili!
Johnny Cash is one of my favorite musicians. I grew up listening to my Uncles play his music around a campfire, and I listen to his albums at least a few times a week still to this day. His son recently wrote a book about his life growing up with his Mom and Dad, and he included this incredible recipe inside.
Regardless of whether you love his music or aren’t really a fan, this chili is by far the best I’ve ever had- and it’s the ONLY chili recipe I make. As you will see by the recipe, he puts a lot of heart and soul into his cooking, and that is a very important part of cooking. Here is the recipe exactly as it is written in John Carter Cash’s book, House of Cash. The photos of the food are my own.
Johnny Cash’s Chili
2 pounds ground venison (if available) or ground beef (chuck or sirloin)
1 pound venison steaks (if available) or beef steaks, such as sirloin, or a rump roast
2 large sweet onions
2 tablespoons canola oil
Three 16-ounce cans whole tomatoes
2 large green bell peppers
1 large red bell pepper
5 jalapeno peppers diced (optional)
1 habanero pepper (optional)
2 packets chili seasoning (your favorite brand. Dad always used McCormick’s mild. He used this only for his base, and if you like you can just use more of the following instead – to taste.)
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chili powder (New Mexico chili powder, if available)
1/3 cup cumin
1 tablespoon sage
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Two 15-ounce cans black beans
Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans
Two 15-ounce cans kidney beans
One 15-ounce can chili beans
One 12-ounce bottle beer
1/4 cup sugar
A handful (about 1/4 cup) of self-rising cornmeal (see NOTE)
Chop the steak into relatively large pieces, but not too big. Chop the onion finely. Separate the garlic cloves and peel and chop them, too. This is to your taste. You may choose not to use as much garlic as suggested.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the steak in the oil in batches, draining off some of the fat if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a separate skillet brown the ground meat over medium-high heat. Drain off the fat and set aside.
With the oil remaining in the pot, brown half the onions and garlic over medium heat until they are caramelized. Now add the well-drained ground beef and steak. Stir and heat it all up. Add the cans of tomatoes, the bell peppers, hot peppers, if using, and the remainder of the onions and garlic. Heat to a brisk simmer, stirring often.
Now it’s time for the spices. Dad would normally put in the chili packets, followed by the salt and black pepper, chili powder, cumin, sage, oregano, and cayenne pepper. This is the time to begin tasting your chili. Once it is to your liking, drain the cans of beans and add to the mixture. Now taste again, as you will likely want to add some more spices because the beans mellow their flavor. Once the chili tastes right, pour in the bottle of beer. Stir well. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar to taste, but be careful not to use too much. Chili becomes something else entirely if too sweet. Simmer, covered, for at least another 30 minutes, making sure to stir so it does not burn. Now grab that handful of cornmeal, uncover the chili, and throw the cornmeal at the pot, not being too careful. And if some does scatter around the stove, that is fine. Stir it in.
Follow the recipe exactly, and you will get a good pot of chili. Change it to suit your own taste, and you will have a marvelous pot of chili. Serve with saltine crackers or corn bread (Southern style only, none of that sweet stuff).
Be sure to check out John Carter Cash’s book, House of Cash.
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