Krakatau Crockpot Chili v1.0

This was an experiment. I called it Krakatau because I had been reading Simon Winchester’s book about the eruption and explosion of Krakatoa a few days before I made this. I used the Dutch spelling. In spite of volcanic connotations, it is mildly spiced. I used red kidney beans, corn, beef chuck. I used dried beans which calls for extra preparation. I did not use a prepared chili powder. This recipe filled the pot, and will make enough for 8-10 people.

The first step is the beans. You can use one 28 oz (796 ml.) can of red kidney beans and one smaller can, rinsed and drained (two large cans would be too much).

The right amount of dried beans would be about one and half cups of dried beans.I have found that recipes that call for using dried beans in chilies in a crockpot don’t generally work. Even if you soak the beans first, the recipe will not work. Recipes that call for long cooking times may work, but with garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and some larger beans, especially kidney beans, even a long soaking isn’t enough. The beans should be partially cooked before the other ingredients go in. That why most crockpot chili recipes use canned beans.

I soaked the beans for about 12 hours. I changed the water a couple of times. I cooked the beans, covered in water, in the slow cooker for about 2 hours on high, which wasn’t enough. Next time I will try about 4-6 hours. Cooking dried beans isn’t hard, and the process is less convenient that using canned beans. I thought this would work if I got up early and cooked the beans while I had coffee and read for a few hours. I think it would have worked if I had cooked the beans longer before I moved on to next steps.

I removed the beans with a slotted spoon and emptied the fluid from the bottom of the crockpot. I rinsed the beans and put them back into the pot, still hot. I did not rinse the crockpot because it was hot and I did not want to risk cracking it – which is what will happen if you rinse a hot clay dish or pour a cool or lukewarm liquid into a hot crock. I let the liner cool off for a while before putting the beans back.

There is a meat and vegetable preparation stage. You can do this while the beans are cooking. I used a chuck steak, about 600 grams (one and a half pounds) but into fine pieces, trimming fat and sinew as I went. I used a red bell pepper and half a green bell pepper, seeded, rinsed, cut into small pieces. I used one onion, chopped fine, and one celery rib cut and chopped. I would add another onion. I used two jalapeno peppers, seeded, rinsed and diced fine – almost minced. I used about 5 cloves of garlic, minced.

Watch out for the jalapenos. Mincing them gets juicy and you might want to wear disposable rubber gloves. Pepper oil can get into the grain of your skin and doesn’t wash off that well.

When the beans have been pre-cooked and the meat and veggies are ready, it all goes together with tomatoes, corn and spices. Because of my concern about adding cool things, I took a extra care at this step. I heated the contents of a large (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes in the microwave and stirred it into the beans. I added 2 cups of kernel corn. I used canned corn, which tends to come in 11 or 12 oz cans. You can use both cans, or you can use one can, or open the second can to get two cups and use the extra for something else (I like to stir it into salsa). Frozen corn would work instead, but heat it before adding it if the pot is already hot. I added the meat and fresh veggies after the tomatoes and corn. I just put them on top, and added the spices.

Spices – you could use from a teaspoon to tablespoon of commercial chili powder and add oregano, cumin, sage and cayenne to taste. A commercial chili powder is based on paprika, some ground chilis, and a little cumin and oregano. Many recipes call for extra spice. I didn’t have any chili powder and I improvised: one teaspoon of paprika, half teaspoon ground sage, half teaspoon ground cumin, half teaspoon dried oregano, quarter teaspoon cayenne. I had some dried chili peppers and I ground up a couple in a mortar and threw that in too. The result is custom chili powder. This was a mild mix.

I like to put in a shot of tequilla. I stirred it a lot to distribute the spices. This starts as sticky, dry mixture but gains fluid as the beans and vegetables cook. It should cook for about 8 hours to cook the meat. I needed to cook it longer to deal with the beans, but the answer for that is canned beans or longer preparation of dried beans.