Autumnal Chili

Photos by  Zachary Cross

Photos by Zachary Cross

It’s November and that means it’s time for our neighborhood’s annual chili dinner - and contest. In the past I’ve usually made the same vegetarian chili, but it’s not something I’m eating anymore. My husband Jeffrey still makes it and makes an extra spicy batch to serve alongside it. I’ve been hunting for a go-to chili that fits my paleo-ish style of eating better.

I had a ham roast from Hoe Hop in the freezer and decided to try a new recipe with it. I’m still learning about cooking with meat and a ham roast has cooked up consistently well in my slow cooker. I couldn’t quite find what I wanted so I took ideas from Food Network and Slow Cooker Gourmet and combined them. A lot of recipes called for boneless and cut up pork. I used one with a small bone in it and threw it in whole.

I came up with a recipe that uses not only pork but also the fall flavors of apples, pumpkins, and greens. A couple of recipes called for beer, but I wanted to bring a gluten-free chili to the supper so opted for a hopped hard cider. I used Bold Rock brand but I know there are others. You could also use regular beer, sweet apple cider, or some combination of both. Cider will be sweeter and beer less so.

I wanted a mild chili, so I skipped the jalapeños I originally planned to use, but did sauté them separately with onions and served them on the side. I replaced them with some bell peppers that I had blanched and frozen earlier this year. Peppers are still plentiful at the market and you can use whatever kind you like from sweet to crazy hot - Jeffrey used a combination of habanero, Scotch bonnet, Thai, and ghost peppers for his. Yikes!

The pumpkin purée adds a depth of flavor and some extra nutrition. I had a nice orange purée but the color gets lost in the rest of the chili so don’t worry if yours is a different color. For greens I had spicy Asian mustard, though the flavor is mild once long cooked. Here’s another area to vary the flavor. I parboiled the greens, stems and all, partly because I wanted a milder flavor, and partly because of the toxins found in greens. Some folks prefer the spicy flavor, and do well with less cooking time. If that’s you, throw your greens in at the last minute. Also try different greens if mustard is not available or there’s another type you prefer.

For spice I tried Frontier brand chili powder for the first time and it’s my new favorite. It has a smooth flavor and is nice and mild for the spice wimps around our house. I wanted to use fresh herbs and chose to add the cilantro and oregano at the end. I would probably add more fresh oregano next time, ¼ cup like the cilantro.

The pumpkin sour cream was a fun garnish. The purée barely tinted the sour cream but gave it a bit of extra flavor that was a nice surprise. More cilantro on top was yummy, and for those who wanted to turn up the heat they could add the browned onions and jalapeños.

I thought it was yummy, and apparently other meat eaters thought so, too; this chili won second place in the neighborhood contest! And there wasn’t enough for leftovers so it remains to be seen if it’s better the next day. A good problem to have!

If you don’t have a slow cooker try the method Paleo Leap uses for their spicy pork chili.

Autumnal Chili

~3 lbs pork roast (I used a ham roast)
3 Tbsp fat (I used trimmed pork fat plus palm oil)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small bell pepper, chopped, or 2 jalapeños
1 Tbsp chili powder    
1 tsp cumin powder
1 28 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 12 oz bottle of hopped hard cider (or use beer, sweet cider, or a combination)
½ cup sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for serving
1 ¾ cups pumpkin purée
1 bunch mustard greens

Mix 3 tablespoons of the pumpkin, ½ cup sour cream, and salt to taste then chill.

Melt the fat in a skillet and add the onions, salting them lightly. Sauté them for five minutes, then add the peppers and salt lightly. Sauté for about five minutes more then add the garlic, cumin, and chili powder and sauté until all the veggies are soft. Add the sauté to your slow cooker.

Salt the pork roast well and place on top of the veggies. Pour over the canned tomatoes, then the cider or beer. Cook on low for 7-9 hours.

Separate the stems from the mustard greens. Parboil for 7 minutes, then drain and chop. Remove the pork and shred the meat and save any bones or fat for stock. Return the meat to the pot along with mustard, remaining pumpkin purée, ¼ cup cilantro, and oregano. Cook on low for 30 minutes longer, then add salt to taste. Serve with pumpkin sour cream and additional cilantro.

Printable recipe here