My great Uncle Bert passed away a year ago January. To say he was a character would be an understatement.
He was brilliant, cantankerous and a wealth of knowledge and experience. He knew swear words I didn’t know exsisted.
He was also our loving famiily patriarch.
He taught our family countless things – how to sail, arrange flowers, gut a deer (not me, personally), make wild grape jelly, the list goes on and on. But perhaps his mmost beloved and favored legacy was Pop’s chili.
My great-great-grandfather and brothers came to Deadwood during the goldrush to set up shop as hotel and restaurant keepers. My great-great-grandfather was kind of a bum, but Uncle Bert remembered him coming back to South Dakota in his old age and making his chili – the same chili that had been served to the miners in the wild west.
Uncle Bert kept this recipe and passed it onto us. He would have it simmering on the stove when we would arrive in the fall to hunt. He made it outrageously spicy for his son when he’d visit. And when I came to college, I was drafted into the front lines to make it for others.
It’s the only “real” chili I know how to make. Sure, I’ve made mixes from stores and slow cook things that call themselves chili, but in my mind and mouth, Uncle Bert’s chili is the only one that’s real. It takes some work and planning (things I’m not really all that good at) so it doesn’t get made but once or twice a year. Plus, it makes like 34 gallons, so we freeze it for those days we want to burn our mouths and torture our stomachs. It hurts so good!
Super Bowl Sunday seemed a perfect day to remember Uncle Bert and make a batch.
First, we set up the meat grinder. That’s right, a meat grinder. I told you it takes some work.
Then we ground up the meat, onions and garlic. The kids call this puke. Appetizing, isn’t it?
After we added the meat to the 2 POUNDS of pinto beans, we seasoned the stuff. A 1/4 cup of salt, 2 Tbsp. black pepper, cumin and red pepper flakes. That’s some serious heat!
A long simmer and the whole house started to smell like Uncle Bert’s apartment (sans the cigarette smoke). And boy, was it tasty!
A fitting tribute to a great man.