The following recipe is close to the "original" chili which was created on the trail. It's probably close to what was prepared on cattle drives or in line shacks on big cattle ranches as all the ingredients would keep or could be readily obtained. If venison wasn't available, a lame steer or other beef animal was probably utilized using this recipe.
3 lbs. venison--cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes (remove all deer fat as that is what causes the "gamey" flavor)
1/4 cup pork lard or Crisco
4 tbsp chili powder
3 dried red peppers, crushed
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp whole dried cumin, bruised
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsps salt and black pepper to taste
3 onions peeled and chopped at fireside
The first instructions are for making at fireside when camping out or on the trail, after that are a list of adaptations I've made for making it on the stovetop.
The spices should be combined at home and carried in a can or plastic bag, the lard and garlic should be packaged separately. You can make chili powder from scratch by mixing ground cayenne, oregano, cumin and salt in a 3:2:1:1 ratio.
Use a dutch oven, 3-quart size or better, nestled in a generous bed of coals. It's easiest if the supply fire is a couple feet away, giving the chef a chance to work over the pot, adding fresh coals to the cooking area as needed.
Brown the meat in the lard, half at a time. With a large slotted spoon set the browned meat aside, adding more lard as necessary. After all the meat is well browned, pour off any extra grease. Combine the meat, chili powder and all the spices. Dice and add the garlic.
Stir the meat vigorously, coating each piece with the spices, and continue cooking over lower heat for 10 to 12 minutes. It may be necessary to remove the kettle from the coals to prevent burning, but the heat of the pot should be sufficient to allow the herbs and peppers to soften and blend.
Add enough water to cover the meat. Return to the fire with enough coals to bring the chili to a boil. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for one hour.
Grate or chop the onions finely and add to the chili. Continue cooking for an additional hour, adding more water as necessary until the onion dissolves.
Only heretics add beans to chili.
Allow the chili to stand for 10 minutes before serving, skimming off any fat that rises to the top.
Bannock baked in another oven makes good drop bisquits.
My adaptations for the stovetop
(Corresponding to the numbers above)
My family loves it this way
1. I use 4-5 lbs. of venison (or barring venison, a good lean cut of beef)
2. I usually use 5 tbsps of hot chili powder adding gradually during the cooking process
3. I use 2 tbsps of ground cayenne to start
4. I omit the oregano (there's enough in the chili powder)
5. For this much chili I use 1 1/2 tbsp of ground cumin and add more to taste as I cook the chili (adjust to your taste)
6. I use 2 tbsps of chopped garlic (or more, I love garlic)
7. 1 heaping tbsp of salt and 1 1/2 tsp of black pepper (adjust these to you taste)
8. 3-4 medium to large onions, chopped
The only other thing I do is thicken the chili with a mixture of milk and flour, as I like chili with a stew-like consistency
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Let me know how it comes out for you.
Basic Bannock Recipe
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk powder
Note: You'll notice a lack of beans. I don't understand this as beans were a staple of a lot of meals out on the range, but just try this as is and I'm sure you'll like it. I've never known anyone to give it anything but rave reviews.