Moose hunting season came and passed for us without success. This last semester of nursing school is all consuming currently and quite honestly our efforts were halfhearted at best knowing we have an abundance of fish in the freezer. But then the culture here of sharing brought us a front quarter from a good friend who took a bull, with his bow, in a hunt upriver. So between studying, we spent last weekend canning, vacuum sealing, jerky making, bone broth making and embarking on a massive chili endeavor. Over the summer some fishing friends, who winter in Texas, brought us a huge bag of dried ancho and guajillo chilies, the perfect gift for red chili making. If you don’t have such friends, most Spanish/Mexican markets, earthy.com, and amazon.com all have dried chilies. I love the smoky flavor roasted dried chilies impart to the dish, with pinto beans and small tender chunks of moose meat in each bite. When I get chili making, for me it’s go big or go home so this recipe is enough to feed a small army! Perfect for large Fall get togethers.And for me Fall to me is a time of settling in and enjoying the cold nipping at us in the night, dark cool foggy mornings and industrious enterprises. We are getting excited for the coming winter, dreams of cozying up with my knitting, a good book, a lap full of candle lit little girl snuggles, your breath freezing in the air. Too often, Fall is seen as a closure of a season but for me it is the precursor of the earth being wrapped in a winter blanket and slumbering to rejuvenate. And of course it means the coming of ski season, snow ball fights, big long dinners with friends, I could go on forever. Embracing each season is the only way to engender happiness in the present instead of always waiting for the next. And this chili is a damn good way to embrace Fall I’d say!
Massive Batch Smokey Red Moose Chili
Recipe serves a very large dinner party, freezes or cans up nicely (instructions included).
- a heavy bottomed 3 gallon pot
- a cast iron skillet
- 4 lbs moose meat cubed to bite-size (beef, elk, caribou, deer all works if you don’t have moose)
- 4 large yellow onions, diced
- 10-15 large cloves of garlic minced (about 10 Tablespoons)
- 4 fresh jalapeños diced, seeds removed
- 12 dried ancho chilis
- 10 dried guajillo chilis
- 2 Tablespoons cumin
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 – 28 oz cans of whole San Marzano style fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- approximately 1/4 cup olive oil (for browning the meat & cooking the onions)
- 12 cups softened pinto beans (I buy pintos, dry in bulk, and prior to use in this recipe I soak about 4 lbs of them overnight in salted water, rinsing and straining them once soft, this yields approximately 12 cups)
- sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 8 cups water
The first step in this endeavor is to dry roast and soften up those chilies! To do this heat your cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and toast the chilies on each side until they puff up, become blistered, and you begin to smell them. This takes a few minutes on each side. Once roasted, remove the seeds and stems and discard them.
Place the cleaned, roasted chilies into a large bowl, cover them with enough hot water (about 8 cups) to submerge them all. Allow to soak for 30 minutes.
Once soaked & softened, place the chilies into a blender, add 2 cups of the chili soaking water and puree until smooth. Reserve the remaining chili soaking water to use in the chili! Set both aside.
Season your moose meat lightly with sea salt and black pepper, and in your 3 gallon heavy bottomed pot, work in small batches to brown your cubed moose meat in olive oil over medium-high heat, set aside. Deglaze your pot if needed with a little of the chili soaking water, scraping up any browned bits, add more oil to the pan, enough to coat your diced onion, jalapeños, and garlic. Cook until your onions become translucent, this may take 5-10 minutes. Add your cumin and oregano in, stirring for about one minute until fragrant.
Add back into the pot your browned meat, your chili puree, the cans of tomatoes (without draining!), pinto beans, 1 1/2 tsp sea salt, and the reserved chili soaking water. Stir to blend well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and cook for 4-5 hours stirring frequently. Chili will thicken and reduce a bit to concentrate flavors but you don’t want it to be so thick that it sticks to the bottom so add a little water if needed to keep it from getting too dry.
At the end of cooking, season with the 1/4 cup vinegar (sometimes it may take a little extra depending on your palette and how much the chili reduces) and salt if needed to taste, be sure to stir very well to distribute seasoning throughout prior to tasting and adjusting.
Serve immediately. We like ours topped with sour cream, fresh avocado, cilantro, salsa, diced jalapeños, fresh tomatoes and tortilla chips for scooping! Chili is good in fridge for up to three days, in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If, like us, your freezer space is at a premium or you like to grab a jar of chili to go for lunch, keep reading for canning instructions! Note: one batch served our family of four dinner, made a few ziploc bag quarts to freeze, and a case of pint jars canned.
Canning your Chili:
If you want to jar/can your chili, you will need a weighted gauge pressure cooker such as this one, along with canning jars and rings with new lids.
I use a hot pack method for filling the jars. To do this wash your jars in hot soapy water and rinse well with hot water. Place your clean lids into boiling water and leave until ready to place on filled jars. Have clean rings handy.
Fill the warm, clean jars with hot chili to just below the threads on the jar, leaving about an inch of headspace. Wipe clean the rims to ensure a good seal and top each with a hot lid. Seal lids with rings, tightened only to finger tight. Too tight of bands could cause jars to break, too loose and the lids will not seal.
Following the instructions of your pressure canner to load your jars and add sufficient water to run your batch. I typically add enough water to cover the bottom layer of jars to just below the rings. Close your canner and leave weight off to initially heat.
Heat your pressure canner until steam comes from the vent in a steady stream for a 10 full minutes, this ensures your canner is evenly heated and allows true pressure to be achieved. Place your weight over the vent on the 10 lb setting and allow canner to reach 10 lbs of pressure and begin timing your batch.
Canning times are as follows: 75 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs of pressure. If at any time your pressure dips below 10 lbs you must begin your timing over. If you are new to canning this article on canning meat and this article regarding canning soups and sauces , both from University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension, are very helpful.
Once jars have fully cooled, remove rings, wipe jars clean, and check that all of your lids have sealed. UAF Cooperative Extension suggests you “Test the seal by tapping the jar lids with a metal spoon. A ringing metal sound is caused by a vacuum inside the jar. The center of the lid should be pulled down. It should not move when pressed with a finger.”
I like to store my jars without the ring on to ensure the seal is true. Always remember to check your seals when opening your jars, check the contents, and heat before eating. This canned chili lasts well, stored in a cool dark place, for up to one year.