Cincinnati 5 Way Chili Recipe, My Way
If you are from Cincinnati, or if you search online for Cincinnati 5 way chili, you will find that my version of this spicy and hearty chili recipe may draw fire from purist Cincinnati 5 way gourmands. However, I stand by this recipe because I learned it from my Ohio family, and as far as I’m concerned, if they say it’s Cincinnati 5 way, then God love ‘em, who am I to argue?
I discovered this recipe at my Aunt Katie’s house in a small Ohio town whose name will remain undisclosed to protect its existence as a vital manifestation of what we can only envision as the dream of rural small-town American living. To get a hint of this magic, take a look at annemaeve’s HubPages avatar. That little building in the field is where my great-grandfather went to school.
It was Aunt Katie’s daughter Ann, after whom my daughter is named, who introduced me to her version of 5 way. With heartfelt thanks to my awesome cousin, and only one or two apologies for minor digressions from her recipe, I present Cincinnati 5 way chili, my way.
What Does 5 Way Mean?
The basic bowl of chili is the first way. The remaining four ways refer to the additions of cheese, freshly chopped onion or scallion, sour cream, and rice. Inherent in the name of this recipe is the idea that you can pick and choose how you want to enhance that basic bowl of chili.I do need to say here that the Cincinnati gourmand’s 5 way version uses spaghetti pasta instead of rice and does not include beans in the basic chili bowl. But remember, this is my way.
The Beautiful Jalapeño Pepper
The Basic Chili Ingredients
1 Pound (450 grams) ground beef
1 Cup (240 ml) diced onion
1 ½ Cups (350 ml) diced green bell pepper
* 3 Cups (700 ml) canned red kidney beans, drained
* 4 ½ Cups (1 liter) canned diced tomatoes
* 3 Cups (700 ml) canned tomato sauce
* 2 Bay leaves
* 2 ½ to 3 Tablespoons (37 to 45 ml) prepared chili powder
* 1 Jalapeño pepper, small to medium, finely diced, seeds removed (unless you want very spicy-hot chili)
* 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
* 1 Teaspoon (5 ml) salt (optional)
6 Garlic cloves, minced
½ Teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper, freshly ground
What’s in That Chili Powder?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of chili powder including those that are homemade and those that are commercially prepared. As you can guess, the main ingredient is dried, ground chili peppers. Common additions are oregano, cumin, paprika, black and red peppercorns, nutmeg, and cinnamon. If you feel ambitious, try making your own chili powder with Alton Brown’s recipe.
Chili Powder Varieties for Sale
The Basic Chili Cooking Method
Brown the beef in a large cooking pot over medium-low heat. Break the meat apart into tiny crumbs as it browns. When done, drain off the grease and set aside. Transfer the hot cooked beef to a bowl.
Add a tablespoon or two of the reserved grease to the large cooking pot. Cook the diced onions over medium-low heat until they are transparent and turning golden.
Add the diced green bell peppers to the onions and cook over medium-low heat until the peppers are wilted. Return the cooked meat back to the pot.
* Now add all the “starred” ingredients.
Place a lid on the pot leaving it slightly ajar, and cook the chili for two or three hours on very low heat. You want some of the liquid to boil off so that the chili thickens. Stir occasionally to avoid burning or sticking. The longer it cooks, the better. Slow cooking is the key.
Add the minced garlic and freshly ground pepper, stirring thoroughly, in the last half hour of cooking time.When the basic chili is done, ladle it up into a large serving bowl and place on the table.
The 4 Remaining Ways
On the table, place additional bowls of:
- Freshly diced sweet onions or scallions
- Shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Colby cheese (or all three combined)
- Cooked hot rice flavored with butter and salt
- Sour cream
Let your guests make this a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 way chili, as they desire.
Try a Chili Dog
Chili isn’t just for eating out of a bowl. The next time you are in the mood for a grilled hot dog on a toasted bun, spoon chili on top of the dog and add some mustard, chopped onion, and grated cheese.
On a separate plate, serve a fresh green salad with your dressing of choice. Russian dressing is good. It’s got a sweet and tart taste that complements the spice of the chili.
Crusty bread, toasted with butter and garlic, is another
nice accompaniment. But even better would by Mary Lyles Wilson's southern skillet cornbread, fresh from the oven and slathered in butter.
Don't forget the beer.
Follow Your Nose
Should you ever find your way to that special town in the middle of the Ohio cornfields, sniff the air for the rich aroma of Cincinnati 5 way chili and follow your nose to Aunt Katie’s house.
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Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.