This time of year, nothing warms my family up like a good bowl of chili. As wife to an avid hunter, Ryan, I have learned to use venison to make dishes that are both delicious and healthful. A champion of good nutrition, I feel good about eating wholesome venison. It’s leaner than beef, and because it’s a product of my husband’s hunts, I know that it’s 100 percent free-range and organic.
I use ground venison in the same way that I would use ground beef. For this particular batch of chili, I decided to save myself a little effort and cooked it in my slow cooker. Yes, you heard me right — I cook ground meat in a slow cooker, and you can too! There’s no need to brown the meat beforehand to drain the fat. The slight amount of fat that lean venison does contain will help keep the meat moist.
Tomato puree from garden tomatoes
Garden bell pepper, diced
12 oz cooked chili beans
1 bulb garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
To prepare my crock-pot chili, I simply take ground venison that has completely thawed in the refrigerator and give it a good rinsing. Then, I place garden-tomato puree in the base of the slow cooker to give the meat a nice liquid to cook in. I put the meat on top of the puree and make sure that I use a fork to mash up the meat and separate it—if I don’t, it would cook up in a big mass. Next, I add chopped onion, diced garden peppers, 12 ounces of cooked chili beans, and a bit of homemade salsa for a kick. Chili seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic, and a hint of cinnamon complete the recipe.
My slow cooker isn’t all that slow of a cooker, so this was done in a 2-3 hours on high. Then came the hard part of deciding how we wanted to enjoy our chili. Do we eat it in a bowl with crumbled crackers or over a plate of spaghetti? Over spaghetti won. We love chili on top of spaghetti with shredded cheese and extra onion. I learned to love this as a child thanks to visits to Skyline Chili in Cincinnati with my grandpa. Chili spaghetti is a staple in that part of the country.
Give this recipe a try, and tell me what you think. If you don’t have ground venison, ground beef or turkey will work just fine. Try to use your homegrown produce, and be creative. Chili is more versatile than you might think. In a bowl, over pasta, or on top of a good hot dog are ways that my family enjoys it. And if you just so happen to have leftovers, put them in a freezer safe container to savor on a busy autumn night. Enjoy!
Photo by Monica Sharrock