Let's get to it.

Jim writes:

I have a recipe for Chili that uses these spices: Ground Hot Red Chili and Ground Mild Red Chili. I have looked in stores and on the web for these. I can find Chili Powder and Red chiles, etc., but nothing in "ground", or "hot", "mild" listings. Are these available? Is it something else? Hoping you can help.

Hey Jim: Confusing ain't it? Ground hot red chili would be cayenne. You can find that anywhere. The mild would be ground Anaheim or New Mexico red chili peppers. I don't know where you live, so I don't know if they are available locally. Nearly all spices are "ground" that is, in powder form. Red pepper flakes are used in Italian recipes. You can find chili spices on most of the Southwestern Spice vendor's pages on the Internet. What's known as chili powder is the mild type with other spices mixed in, like cumin, garlic, black pepper, etc. If you can't find a supplier for the mild red, let me know and I'll look one up for you. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Cindy writes:

Do you know where I can get a recipe for blackened seasoning? I had one once, but seem to have lost it. With my own recipe, I can better control the ingredients. Thank you for any assistance you can provide me.

Cindy: Here's one for a small batch. You can double it if you need to. Keep it in a cool dark place when you are not using it.

Blackened Seasoning

Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

David wrotes:

Hello, Dr. John: I've been experimenting with making Chili (as in Bowl of Red) for some time now using my own blends, sometimes using whole chiles, other times using chile molidos, and sometimes a mixture of both. But I have not yet got the Gebhardt taste. Do you have or know of any formula of chiles, herbs and spices that would recreate the Gebhardt taste? Many thanks.

Hey David: I don't have the Gebhardt formula. But I will tell you the flavor of chili powder depends on the base chile, and the flavor will vary from batch to batch. I discovered this when I was doing a chili supper for a school. I had them get the makings donated. I probably had two dozen bottles of Gebhardt's. When I began to open them I found a great variety -- even with color changes from batch to batch. It's been a long time since I've used Gebhardt's. I think their predominate flavor additive is oregano. Be sure to get Mexican oregano, the Mediterranean variety is different. Best I can tell you is to get a good New Mexico Red for a base and go from there until you find the perfect combo. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Holly writes:

Hi. I am trying to find a good Beans recipe. I think they are called Cowboy Beans, with three kind of beans and a real good flavor.

Hey Holly: I've never heard of a "Cowboy" bean recipe that uses more than one kind of bean. I can tell you how to make superior beans, cowboy style, using one pound of dried beans (pintos preferred).

Pick any rocks and sticks out of the beans and rinse. Put them in a large pot and put in enough water to cover them about three inches. Let the beans set overnight. Next morning, pour off the soaking water and cover with fresh water. Put them on the stove and add three strips of bacon that has been diced. Put in about a quarter cup of minced onion. Bring them to a boil and then cut the fire down to a light simmer, just barely boiling. After about an hour, add a teaspoon of chili powder and a clove of crushed garlic. Continue to simmer. Stir occasionally. When the beans begin to get tender, mash some of them against the side of the pot with the spoon. This will thicken the gravy. When they are tender enough to suit you, they are done. Just before serving, add the juice of one small lemon and stir it in. This really wakes up the flavor.

If you want to combine beans, try and get them about the same size, such as pintos, navy and kidney beans. If you use white beans in the mix, omit the chili powder and add a couple of more strips of bacon. If you want "to die for" butter beans, cook them in chicken stock and add a couple of tablespoons of butter when they are just about done. Of course, in every case, you season to taste with salt and black pepper. Don't forget to make some cornbread to soak up the "sop". Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Janice writes:

Is it okay and safe to put tomatoes up in the freezer without cooking them first? Thank you for your help.

Janice: Yep, you can freeze the tomatoes without processing. Here's the catch. They will come out all mushy and fit only for stew, soup or processing into a sauce. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ruth writes:

Can you really make a pineapple upside down cake in a Dutch oven?

Hey Ruth: Yep, you can do the upside down cake in the Dutch oven. Only thing, the sugar will stick to the bottom of the oven and is very difficult to clean out. Get out and find yourself a copy of "World Championship Dutch Oven Cookbook." The information I have says you can get the book from World Championship Dutch Oven Cookbook, P.O. Box 4024, Logan, Utah 84323-4024, for $9.95 plus $4.00 shipping and handling. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Mike writes:

I know you prefer to use hardwood as a fuel source when queing. However, I live in the desert southwest where good hardwood is very scarce, so I use charcoal or briquettes. I have been using a Brinkman water smoker, but want to graduate to a horizontal smoker with an offside firebox. Can you tell me if I can expect good results with my heat source and approximately how much briquettes I will need to do the job right. Thanks for the advice.

Hey Mike: Yes, you can use charcoal in the big smoker. Depending on the size of the smoker, the amount of charcoal will vary. For a small model, I would start with ten pounds. Be sure you have a thermometer on the smoke chamber so you can check the temperature.

To get a good smoke flavor, get you some wood chips. Wal-Mart has a good selection in the spring, if there is a Wal-Mart in your area. Try the mesquite or hickory to start with. Follow package directions. Good luck and thanks for writing.

Dr. John