I do like to periodically make a few quarts of chili, and freeze some to have on hand. (Hmmm… I thought I’d written about that – I’ll have to, this winter!) It reheats beautifully, I freeze different sized containers so I have single and double meals, I always have something he can fix, or that we can carry to gaming. It’s a good standard practice.
But right now, practically the only thing I do not have in my freezer is room. We’re still going to need fast convenient meals, I’m coming into my busy work season (when I’ll be coming home late and tired) and I really want meals on hand, but…
And I had a big package of ground beef and pork, all ready for a bulk recipe of chili, or meatloaf, or… something that would take too much room in the freezer. A problem.
Or is it? After all, the meat came out of the freezer – meat alone could fit back in… and the rest of chili? Well… seasoning, of course, but other than that… Beans. Well, they’re bulky… but I always have them around, and I try to have cooked beans on hand much of the time, and even if I don’t, they do come in cans… Tomatoes. I don’t really need to open a can of tomatoes to cook them down and then put them in the freezer… I could just add them when I’m ready to eat. If I add beans and tomatoes, that’s not quite as fast and easy as just heating something already cooked, but it’s still better than starting from scratch. So, why don’t I just cook the chili meat with onions, peppers, and seasoning, and then add it to beans and tomatoes as needed? Or, for that matter… add it to refried beans, or make tacos, or add beans and make diner style Super Nachos, or… I can do a couple of things with this. OK, that’s a point in its favor.
I had roughly 3/4 of a pound each of ground beef and ground pork. And I did not have commercial chili powder – but I did have fresh chillies. So I took a teaspoon of cumin, and half a teaspoon of oregano, and a pinch of salt, and ground them together in a mortar and pestle. (And, of course, you can just use ground cumin… you can even just use whole cumin – it does cook soft enough to not be annoying…)
Then I chopped an onion, and three hot peppers, and sauteed them lightly with just a touch of olive oil. I probably really should have used a larger onion, or a second one… I might add a little more when I put it together later, but I don’t have to – this was all right. It is a bit hot on its own, but I plan to mix the meat with beans. Once the onion and pepper was soft, I put three cloves of garlic through a garlic press into the pan, added the spice mixture, and stirred it all around to heat and release flavor.
I broke up the meat into bits and added it to the hot pan to brown. I raised the heat a little, and stirred it around while browning, then lowered the heat and let the moisture cook off and the meat caramelize. Then I let it cool.
Once it had cooled, I put most of it in a labeled freezer bag, flattened the bag, and put it in the freezer. (I flatten it to save space, so that it will freeze quickly and evenly, and, above all, so that I can then break off chunks to use, instead of having to thaw the whole thing.)
I left some in the pan, and started dinner…
I had a pint container of cooked beans. They were actually Roman beans, this time – usually I would be more likely to use either pintos or kidney beans. I really could use almost any kind, of course… it just would not be as traditional. I added the beans with their cooking liquid, rinsed the container out with a little water and added it, and let it all simmer for a while to blend flavors. I also had a half tomato I wanted to use, so I chopped it and put that in after a few minutes. I let that simmer while I fixed vegetables and heated cooked rice – and the whole meal was ready in about 10-15 minutes.
Usually I would add a small can of diced tomatoes with the beans, instead of the fresh tomato, and let that all simmer together. I normally cook and use dried beans, and I usually have some available, but if I did not, there’s always a can of beans in the cupboard… I might put some corn in – we like that combination. I could serve it with corn bread, or tortilla chips, or polenta, instead of rice. I added some cheddar cheese – Rich particularly likes that combination. People sometimes use sour cream, or raw chopped onion as garnishes. Whatever you like… and whatever is easy.
Because this is all about an easy meal. The initial preparation of the chili meat only takes a few minutes more than it would if I was just making a simple scratch chili for one meal – chop a little more, brown a little more – but then saves me those steps for several future meals. Once in a While cooking at its best.
Don't have room in your freezer for homemade chili? Just season and cook the chili meat and freeze that - add it later to beans, or whatever else you'd like.
- 1 t cumin
- 1/2 t oregano
- pinch salt
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 hot peppers (or to taste) minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- oil for pan
- 1 1/2 pounds ground meat - beef, pork, turkey, chicken, in whatever combination you choose
- If desired, grind cumin, oregano, and salt together. (Or just use ground cumin.)
- Saute onion and peppers in oiled frying pan until soft. Add garlic and stir. Add spice mixture and stir.
- Break up meat and add to hot pan. Stir. Brown meat well, and then let cook until cooked through.
- Let cool, and freeze.
- Later, break off chunks and use in your preferred chili recipe to save time.