BPA-Free Chili!

Chili used to be one of the easiest meals in my repitiore of crowd-pleasing entrees. Just fry up some sausage and onions, add some cans of tomatoes, some cans of beans, a can of green chili peppers, some spices, simmer it a bit, and your done!

Enter Whole Foods and Nourishing Cooking Practices, and my easy chili recipe became full of extra prep and forethought and hardly worth the effort.

Fast forward a few more years, and chili has once again become an easy, throw-together meal that’s yummier than ever and even more nourishing. Let me tell you how…


How did I go BPA-Free?
Did you notice all the cans of stuff my old chili recipe had? When I learned about the dangers of BPA and that a lot of our exposure to this dangerous chemical comes from canned food, I made an effort to reduce the amount of canned food I bought. (Comprehensive post about BPA and why to avoid it) Thankfully, I was already on a good track here, having learned long ago that there was so little nutritional value left in canned foods that it was a waste of my food budget. The only things I still bought in cans were tomato sauce and pineapple. Now it was time to address the tomato sauce.

I found a nice marinara sauce sold in a glass jars at my favorite grocery chain that contained no sugar or soybean oil in the added ingredients. Now I use it in everything, even when a recipe calls for whole or chopped tomatoes – my husband doesn’t enjoy meeting chunks of  tomato in his dinner anyway. I wash the jars and keep them for…

My beans. Once every other month or so, I soak a big bowl of red or kidney beans overnight and cook them down slowly the next day till they’re nice and soft. I pour them into my recycled tomato sauce jars, cap them, and freeze the whole batch (except what I make into fermented bean paste!). These jars fit nice in the door of my freezer where nothing else seems to fit.

Finally, the secret ingredient to all good soups - the stock. Every three months or so I take all the beef bones I’ve been saving in a ziplock in the freezer and make beef stock out of them. This is another two day process involving a bit more effort than the beans, but a batch of beef stock lasts me a long time ’cause I use chicken stock more often than beef. I pour the amber brown liquid into more of those recycled tomato sauce and put them in the door of the freezer along with the beans.

And that is how chili once again becomes an easy, throw together meal, yet frugal and full of nourishing, whole ingredients! I just have to remember to thaw a couple jars along with the meat. (If I don’t pull it out in time, all of these ingredients can soak in a bath of hot water in my sink to thaw more rapidly).

DSC08104
Beans, stock, tomato sauce, and grass-fed beef

Another benefit of my new chili recipe is it has so much flavor that you don’t even notice that I now make it with ground beef instead of sausage - cheaper and healthier, as my ground beef is grass fed, and my pork source is not!

Red Meat Chili
2 Lbs. ground beef
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or lard
1/4 c. red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 onions, chopped fine
2-4 small green chilies, hot or mild, seeded and chopped*
2 cans tomatoes, briefly chopped in food processor
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1/4-1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. sucanat or sugar
4 cups cooked beans
Brown meat in olive oil or lard in a heavy pot. Add onions when meat is just beginning to brown. Add rest of ingredients after onions are cooked. Simmer an hour.
Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese dolloped on top!

*I seeded and chopped a whole pile of hot peppers from a neighbor’s garden this summer – I keep them in a bag the freezer and break of a chunk whenever I need it.

I’ll be making a large batch of this for our ski trip at the end of the month. It’s such an easy way to feed a crowd – try it this weekend!

This post is part of
Real Food Wednesdays
Pennywise Platter at Nourishing Gourmet
Twisted Tuesdays at GNOWFGLINS

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Comments

  1. says

    That is the best recipe. Never thought of pre cooking and freezing the beans. Great tip.
    I have an easy tomato sauce and you can skip the jars forever! 28oz whole tomatoes or diced (if you already can your harvest, easy, if not, this the season to buy canned tomatoes at your local farmers market. ) Anyway cook in pot with at least 1/2 cup butter and add some fresh basil and some salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes and then you can jar it yourself. Thin it with either some pasta water or broth when using!!! This is how they do it in Tuscany, my friend taught me and it’s in her cookbook.

  2. shelly says

    how are the beans bpa free? does soaking do something magical where the bpa sinks and beans float? when can i get beans that havent been in a can?

    • says

      Shelly, BPA is in the canned beans, a component of the cans. if you use dried beans, they don’t have BPA in them. Your grocery store should carry dry beans in bags.

  3. says

    Hello, Linda! I'm sorry about your broken glass. I occasionally get a broken jar, usually if I have forgotten to leave the head space that J recommends. In fact, I pulled out a jar of beans on Saturday and it was broke. Oh, well – I figure it's a couple pennies wasted occasionally for the assurance that I know exactly what's in my stock and beans…

  4. J says

    Linda, you may have overfilled your jars. Liquids/food expand when frozen. In a quart jar leave 1.5 inches of head room and try again. Also, some glass is not tempered and will break.the tomato sauce jars our chili chef uses are canning jars. Experiment by freezing water so you may build up your courage!

  5. Linda says

    I love your idea for reusing the glass jars, but putting them in the freezer? I lost 3 jars of homemade chicken broth because when I took them out they cracked. I've been afraid to put glass jars in my freezer ever since.

  6. says

    Traci and Kateri, I grew up with sausage chili, but I'm glad to find a recipe that has great flavor without it. I think the secret is the stock!

    Danielle, thanks for visiting and saying hello! Yes, the sauce is marinara flavored – and so far it hasn't bothered me (but then, I'm not Italian:)). In fact, when I tried to make sloppy joes with crushed tomatoes last month and he missed the added flavor from the marinara.

  7. says

    Thanks for this recipe! I've been concerned about BPA too, and have been looking into ways to reduce our canned-goods. Is your glass-jarred tomato sauce marinara-flavored, and does the flavor interfere with any of your recipes?
    I also love your cook-a-batch-of-beans method. Great idea! I think this will be my next project.
    Thanks again for the recipe. I found it at Pennywise Platter, by the way.
    http://mindofthemother.blogspot.com/

  8. says

    That sounds very similar to my chili recipe (I use my home grown canned tomatoes though.) I've never had chili with sausage, either that I know off.

  9. rahraht says

    I have really enjoyed making my own “refried” beans. I soak a bag each of dried white beans and small red beans overnight in the crockpot. The next morning I turn the crockpot on low, covering the beans with water again and let them cook all day. Then I use a hand-held blender to blend them right in the crockpot (less mess!) and add a little sea salt. Soooo Yummy! And I know what is in it so no surprises.

  10. says

    I'm a ground beef kind of gal so that change sounds natural to me. Don't know that I've ever had chili made with sausage, unless you've made it for me.. hmmm…