All About Thyme
  A Weekly Calendar of Times & Seasonings

  Celebrating the Mysteries, Magic, and Myths of Herbs
Susan Wittig Albert  
Special Feature, October 1, 2018  

Chiles and Chili

Culinary note: To cook chili, you have to know how to spell. Chiles are peppers, ranging in temperature from mild to incendiary. Chili is a thick stew made with meat, peppers, herbs, sometimes tomatoes, and (if you live north of the Red River) beans. If you live in Springfield, Illinois, or other northern or eastern locations, you might spell chili with two l's: chilli. Texans never spell chili with beans, unless they're looking for a fight.
Chile Death: A China Bayles Mystery

While it's not official, chili has to rank right up there with ballpark hotdogs and movie popcorn as the Great American Dish.

China's favorite chili recipe is named for the Pedernales River (that's pronounced Purd-nal'-is, folks), which flows through President Lyndon Johnson's Texas ranch. This no-frills, no-fuss chili was said to be Johnson's favorite, and the recipe comes from a card Mrs. Johnson used to hand out. "It has been almost as popular as the government pamphlet on the care and feeding of children," she once remarked. You will notice that there are no beans.

Pedernales Chili
4 pounds ground lean beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 #2 cans tomatoes
2 cups hot water
salt to taste

Brown ground beef in heavy iron skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook 4-5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer one hour. When cool, skim fat. Better on the second day, when the flavors have mellowed.

Chile powder is a mixture of various spices. You can easily make your own by mixing these ingredients. Experiment until the taste suits. Store in a tightly capped bottle.

3 teaspoons dried ground chile peppers (your choice, from mild to hot)
2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1½ teaspoons ground cumin seed
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Discover the mysteries of chili cookery:

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Susan Wittig Albert is the author of two recent memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Her fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes A Wilder Rose (a novel about Rose Wilder Lane's collaboration with Laura Ingalls Wilder in the writing of the Little House books); the China Bayles mysteries; the Darling Dahlias mysteries; the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter; and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige. She is founder and past president of the Story Circle Network, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and Honorary President (2012-2014) of the Herb Society of America. More

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She's the beloved fictional herbalist in Susan Wittig Albert's popular mystery series, set in Pecan Springs TX. For more about her books, visit

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