Locavore Chili

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Category : Main Dishes, Recipes

Locavore ChiliHere’s the recipe for the chili I entered in the 2010 Lummi Island Chili Cookoff sponsored annually by Lummi Island Heritage Trust. I used ingredients almost entirely grown on Lummi Island. 

Gathering the ingredients was a lot of fun. I met some new people, and visited some good friends. I pulled onions in the community garden patch (by permission, of course), and orchestrated picking up ingredients stashed near doorsteps for me when people weren’t going to be home. I went to the Lummi Island Farmers Market to arrange for the beef. I shelled beans and chopped onions until I was in tears. And I faced down the incredibly hot habanero.

I was given some dried habanero peppers, tiny little bundles of culinary fire. I had never worked with them before, so did a little research. Most cooks seemed to either rehydrate them and chop them or make them into a paste, or grind the dry peppers and use the powder.

I’m not a big fan of really hot food, and habaneros are really hot,  so I decided to use the dry powder method. I figured I’d have more precise control over the flavor that way. On the Scoville Heat Scale, the standard for measuring the spicy heat of peppers, jalapenos are rated between 2500-8000 in pungency. Orange habaneros fall on the scale at a whopping 100,000-350,000, right beside the infamous Scotch Bonnet pepper. As you can see, there can be quite a lot of variations in the heat of habaneros depending on how and where they are grown. It’s a good idea to test them in a dish before you commit a lot of ingredients.

First I roasted the peppers slightly in a dry skillet over high heat. When the skins were just beginning to show black burned spots, I removed them and set them aside to cool. This gives the peppers a smoky flavor. I removed the stems, put on a dust mask, and put the peppers into an electric coffee grinder. Even the slightest amount of habanero dust can cause discomfort and a strong coughing reaction when breathed, so I highly recommend using a mask–the kind readily available at hardware stores and used for sanding and painting. I also didn’t handle the dust with my hands.

As you’ll see in the recipe, it doesn’t take much habanero powder to give you a medium hot chili. This chili was rated a 2 on a scale of 1-5, where 5 was blistering hot and 1 was only slightly hot.

  • Prep Time:
    45 min
  • Cook Time:
    9-1/2 hours
  • Ready In:
    about 10 hours
Servings: 4-6 servings

    For the Chili Powder:

  • 4-5 habanero chile peppers, dried–only 1/4 tsp of the powder of these peppers will be used in the recipe (Nancy Simmerman’s garden, Lummi Island)

    For the Beans:

  • 1 cup mixed dried beans (Pamela Miller’s garden, Lummi Island)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (home garden, Lummi Island)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (home herb garden)
  • 1 Tbsp salt (see Exceptions)

    For the Chili:

  • 1 lb ground beef (Phil Tucker’s farm, Lummi Island)
  • 1 onion, chopped (Nancy Simmerman’s and Thurid Clark’s gardens, Lummi Island)
  • 1/2 cups broccoli stems, chopped (Pat Wales’ garden, Lummi Island)
  • 3 green garlic cloves, minced (Rabbit Fields Farm, Everson)
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes, drained (Peg Larson’s and Pat Wales’ gardens, Lummi Island, and Lynden Fresh Farms, Lynden)
  • 1/4 tsp habanero chili powder (see instructions below)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder (see Exceptions)
  • 1 tsp ground cloves (see Exceptions)


Chili Powder:
To prepare the chili powder from dried habanero chile peppers, remove stems and place in a coffee grinder. Grind to fine, about 10 seconds. (I highly recommend wearing a dust mask for this process.) Habaneros are powerful peppers, so clean the coffee grinder by grinding a tablespoon of dry white rice afterward. Important: Only 1/4 teaspoon of this powder will be used in the recipe.

Cooking the Beans:
Soak beans for at least 8 hours. Simmer beans slowly with rosemary and thyme until tender, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Drain and remove herb sprigs. Add salt to taste.

Preparing the Chili:
Brown ground beef in a skillet. After turning the beef once, add the chopped onion, broccoli, and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and beef is fully browned.

In crockpot, add beans, tomatoes, and ground beef mixture. Sprinkle chili powder and spices on top and pour tomatoes over all. Mix with a large spoon.

Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.

Serving Suggestions:

Locavore Chili goes well with Blue Corn Bread and a garden salad with Yogurt Cucumber Dill Dressing.

Food Sources:

Home gardens, Lummi Island
The Islander, Lummi Island
Community Food Co-operative, Westerly and Cordata, Bellingham
Terra Organica, Flora and Cornwall, Bellingham

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Comments (2)

I have been looking for a wonderful chili recipe made from “real” beans – not canned beans. And, there you have one! 🙂 Thank you!!!!

Hope you enjoy it! Wait till you see my locavore pizza recipe next week! I think it’s the best tasting recipe I’ve created so far!