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What Was the First Chili Recipe?
The answer could depend on how you define "chili". For this article, I am defining chili as "any stew made with significant amounts of chiles". The Americanized recipe consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chile peppers, and salt, which were pounded together and left to dry into bricks. Through research, I have found three possible origins of chili.

Back in the early 1840's, many Texan cowboys headed west for the California gold fields or out for a big cattle round-ups. These cowboys pounded beef fat and dried beef with chili peppers and salt to make a sort of a paste. This paste was easy to carry, and it made a food that wouldn't spoil quickly. They would boil this concoction with water while they were on the trail to make a hearty, hot meal.

Others claim that these cowboys would plant oregano, chiles, and onions along their well heavily traveled trails in patches of mesquite. This kept the foraging cattle from eating them. As they moved along the trails, they would harvest the spices, onions, and chiles that they planted and combine them with beef to make a dish called "Trail Drive Chili".

Another version of the origin of chili says that the first chili recipe was made in the Texas prison systems, since only the cheapest meats were served in prison. Prison cooks of the Southwest discovered that the chili pepper combined with certain spices and herbs worked wonders with these poor cuts of meat. The meat was cut into very small pieces and then boiled with the chiles and spices.

In these Southwest jailhouses, chili became such a popular dish that former inmates, from time to time, wrote to prison systems requesting the recipe, claiming that they could not find a chili as good on the outside.

One of the most believable original chili recipes came in 1828 when J.C. Clopper observed what poor people in San Antonio were doing. They would cut what little meat they could afford into very small pieces and stew it together with as many pieces of peppers.

Now, a few questions about you . . .

Do you know the origin of your favorite chili recipes? When you make chili, do your friends always rave about it or ask you for your recipe? Have you ever thought of creating a book of your favorite chili recipes?

It's a lot simpler than you think, especially when you use the Internet. I'm talking about you creating and selling your own products. Like a collection of your favorite chili recipes or a newsletter announcing upcoming cook-offs. I'm talking about a real business, with real products that you can be proud of. And a real potential for significant long-term income.

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