Chili Beans Forever
It is difficult to remember that there once was a time in my life when I never gave a thought about what I ate. Yes, up until around the age of twelve, I was fearless when it came to food. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted without worrying about weight gain or other potential ill effects. Because there were no ill effects. Which brings to mind George Bernard Shaw's quote about youth being wasted on the young because, at the time, I took it completely for granted.
For several years during this carefree period, it was my habit to indulge in an after-school snack. My favorite such "snack" was a warmed-up, 15-ounce can of Ranch Style Beans accompanied by three or four slices of Mrs. Baird's Bread. A few hours later, of course, I sat down to the supper my mother prepared and, at our house, we cleaned our plates.
For many years Ranch Style Beans, a brand that was founded in 1872, were made in Fort Worth. Fort Worth residents with memories that go back 15 or 20 years will remember the water tower off East Lancaster that, except for its conical top, was an exact replica of a can of Ranch Style Beans.
I am still a big fan of these savory chili beans. I don't know that I could ever duplicate them, and have never tried since the genuine article is available in Texas and many other parts of the country.
But I am an advocate of tasty, nutritious, simple cooking, and beans -- chili beans -- qualify on all counts. The first of the bean recipes that follow contains a pound of bacon and, therefore, cannot be considered meatless. The second and third chili bean dishes, however, can be enjoyed by omnivores and vegetarians alike.
- 4 cups dried pinto beans
- 3 quarts water
- 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound bacon, fried and crumbled, OR 1/4 cup bacon drippings
- 4 cups canned tomatoes (break up the tomatoes) OR 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon oregano
In a heavy pot, bring the beans, water and salt to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for one hour. Add all other ingredients and simmer for another hour, or longer if desired. Makes 12 generous servings.
- 2 cups dried pinto or kidney beans
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup bacon drippings or vegetable cooking oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili powder, plus 1 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
In a heavy pot, cover the beans with about an inch of fresh water. Bring beans to a boil, then lower heat and add all remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for about three hours until beans are tender and saucy. Add more hot water, as necessary, to keep beans from drying out.
Southwestern Red Beans
- 2 cups dried red beans
- 1/2 cup chunky salsa (your choice)
- 1/2 cup tomato purée
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- dash of dry mustard
Cover beans with three inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for two hours or until tender, adding more water if necessary. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer an additional 20 minutes.
Ranch Style Beans is no longer a Texas-owned brand, which is probably why they are a central ingredient in the following chili recipe, available on the Ro-Tel web site. Not strictly Texas chili, but good and quick just the same.
Wild West Chili
- 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 can (15 ounces) Ranch Style Beans or chili beans, undrained
- 2 cans (10 ounces) Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes, undrained
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Gebhardt Chili Powder or other good chili powder
- 1 slightly rounded tablespoon of masa harina (optional)
Add beans, tomatoes and chili powder; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.
Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Makes 5 servings.