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Jessica’s Garden: Homegrown Chili


True to Maryland form, we have suddenly and less than gracefully transformed seasons.  It’s hard to imagine going from canning in a 100 degree farmhouse kitchen just two weeks ago, to wearing my new hand-knitted chunky wool sweater from my grandmother this past weekend. But I am certainly not complaining; this is the time of year I thrive.

The garden is continuing to persevere as well. While it took quite a beating from the winds and storms connected with Joaquin, it’s trudging along. Another basin of tomatoes was harvested from the garden this morning, as were a couple of quarts of hot peppers.  The Fall vegetables are hitting their stride as well.  Each plant getting stronger by the day with the cooler weather. We have just begun harvesting some beets, but are on the losing end of a battle with a rogue baby bunny that keeps slipping through the bunny fence. My husband calls me Mrs. McGregor.

With the cooler weather arriving, it’s felt appropriate to whip up homemade chili with some of the dwindling tomato harvest. Hearty, nutritious and certainly economical, coming in at about $1 per serving, we’ve been enjoying a couple of batches of Hearty Homegrown Chili on some of these cooler evenings. My recipe can be adapted to be made anywhere from mild to spicy depending on your family’s preferences. To make milder, reduce or eliminate the amount of jalapeños and pepper flakes. Also, removing seeds and ribs from jalapeños will greatly reduce heat. Always wear rubber gloves when preparing hot peppers, don’t say you haven’t been warned.  If followed as written below, this chili will pack a healthy punch.


Hearty Homegrown Chili

10 Cups Tomatoes; Coarsely Chopped
2 Tomatoes; Diced
2 Jalapeños; Quartered
1 Large Onion; Coarsely Chopped
2-3 Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/4 C Brown Sugar
Chili Flakes to Taste
1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp. Ground Cumin
Zest and Juice of Small Lime
1 Lb. Ground Beef, Turkey or Sausage
(4) 15 Oz. Cans Assorted Beans ( I use Pinto, Black, Cannellini, and Kidney)
Sour Cream and Cheddar Cheese for garnishing

Combine all ingredients except beans, meat and 2 cups diced tomatoes in large stock pot.  Cover and bring to gentle boil.  Allow to simmer until tomatoes stew and become soft. Seeds and skins need not be removed during prep process. Once softened, using stick blender (my preference), standard blender or food processor, pulse and blend until consistent texture.  Return to stock pot and boil gently until sauce is reduced to desired thickness. Brown meat and set aside. Add beans, diced tomatoes and meat once sauce is at preferred thickness. Cover and simmer for at least an hour for flavors to marry.  Garnish with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

Tips: While paste and Roma tomato varieties are preferred for sauces, any variety will work. However, sauce reduction times will vary based on varieties of tomatoes used. More or less sugar may also be required to cut acidity in tomatoes depending on tomato varieties used.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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