Joni Woolf: Prize-winning chili recipe warms a cool night

Published 11:40 am Saturday, March 16, 2019

It’s almost always fun to meet new people, and when one of those turns out to enjoy talking about food, and recipes, and feeding those you love, it’s twice as much fun. A friend of some 50 years, Mary Wilder, Ph.D., of Mercer University’s English Department fame, brought a new friend of hers, Gretchen Longan, to the farm last summer, and right away we began talking about food. Recently, during a Macon visit, Gretchen shared with me the Rick Bragg book which was quoted in last week’s column, and featured one of Bragg’s mother’s recipe.
Food conversations with friends often end up with shared recipes. Not only did Gretchen share the book (and I am enjoying every word that Bragg wrote); she has shared several recipes that are just too fine to keep to myself. One is for a chili that her husband Pat Longan, a professor at Mercer University’s Law School in Macon, has entered in their ‘not-so-serious’ chili cookoff at the Law School, an event that he has won with this recipe for the last three years. So, we know it’s good. The accompanying jalapeno cornbread recipe differs slightly from mine (1/2 cup of vegetable oil instead of ½ cup butter — that has to be an improvement) and an added onion. Both recipes are tested and tried and found to be prize-winning. They will be perfect fare for a casual supper on these still-cool nights of March. Summer will be here soon enough. Enjoy these cool weather dishes while we still need a sweater while enjoying the gifts that March brings.

Prize-Winning Chili
1 pound hamburger meat, cooked
2 15 oz. cans pork and beans
2 15 oz. cans ranch style beans
½ pound bacon, cooked
1 onion, sautéed in bacon drippings
1 cup catsup
1 bottle chili sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients in crockpot and cook all day, on low. Serve with the following cornbread.

Papa’s Jalapeno Cornbread
1 cup yellow corn meal
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup cream style corn
2 or more jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and bake (I use a large iron skillet) until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

A meal this rich deserves a bit of low-calorie salad or slaw, and the following slaw recipe is probably as low-calorie as cole slaw ever gets. It comes from Virginia Willis’s “Bon Appetit, Yall” cookbook, and is a pleasing departure from the usual cole slaw recipe.

Heart-Healthy Cole Slaw
½ head green cabbage, cored and finely chopped (about 4 cups)
½ green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon celery seed
Place the cabbage, bell pepper, and onion in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the oil, vinegar, dry mustard, and celery seed. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and let simmer for 1 minute. Pour the hot dressing over the cabbage and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. To serve, remove from the refrigerator and taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at