By now I am sure you know how much we enjoy getting our friends and family together. What we enjoy even more is a good competition. We happen to hang with a competitive bunch, so it makes for lots of fun witty banter (aka smack talk!) Ever since The Big Poultry Grill-Off of 2016 we just knew we had to have a chili cook-off. We sent out the evite all the way back on Labor Day so we would be on everyone's calendar and get them thinking. Good thing we did, because this fall filled up quick and we would have had a hard time getting it in if we didn't commit early! Within a couple of days, people were thinking chili. Everyone was tossing around ideas and touting their chilies as the best.
|The folks with babies all set up shop on blankets by the train|
After almost 2 months of build-up, the big day drew near. Matt and I had a basic judging system in mind and he went to work implementing it. We had containers ready for the 10 chilies we thought we would be getting, plus a few spares waiting in the wings just in case. Matt designed them so that they could accept a poker chip easily enough, but it would be hard to see the number of chips inside. We wanted people voting on taste, not on current results. He labeled them each with a letter and got busy labeling 240 little cups for tasting as well. Of course I was busy baking, my favorite kind of party prep.
|The judges beginning to assemble|
Even with all of the planning, the big day kind of snuck up on me. I woke up and got busy doing regular party prep stuff and then it clicked... I needed to make a pot of chili!! I love to start my chili early in the morning and let it simmer all day to reduce and really meld. It was a fall Sunday tradition to have everyone over for chili and football when life was a little slower. We used to hardly miss a week, now we can barely get one in... so, maybe I'm out of practice! With this mild weather, we are still getting tomatoes and jalapenos so I had fresh produce picked just that morning.
|You know what they always say, it's not a chili cook-off without a ride in the train ;-)|
It was fun to watch the slow cookers roll in. Good thing we have a long buffet to hold all that yumminess! Matt had fun assigning each slow cooker a number. The numbers corresponded to a letter in a super secret code that only Matt and his super duper decoder sheet knew. Then the party commenced. When it was tasting time, Matt gave everyone a spoon and 3 voting chips. Then he went to work serving up the first chili into 24 little cups marked "A." Luckily we had beautiful weather because he didn't allow anyone in the house while he was serving to keep the tasting blind. Then he came out and passed out the chili for everyone to taste. We had notepads available if people wanted to make notes as they went. We didn't want anyone forgetting what the first chili tasted like by the time they got to the 10th.
I always enjoy listening to people as they are tasting. Being a judge at a cooking competition makes everyone a food snob. ;-) Luckily all of the entries were really tasty and yet each one really was unique. We had chili with a bit of a BBQ bend, chili with some cinnamon, sweet chili, savory chili, thick chili, soupy chili. If I am correct, the meats in the chili included a bit of everything too. There was one with rib meat, brisket and pulled pork. There were chilies with chicken, venison and ground beef as well. There was something for every chili lover! I was a bit surprised we didn't have any white chili entries, though Matt was quite happy about that. He doesn't like white chili. He does eat white chili, I just call it soup and he doesn't know the difference. (Shhhhhh! Don't tell him!)
So now for the important part.... who won?
Secretly a few of us had a couple of goals. First, of course, was to get our own name on the Winner's Board. Secondly, if we couldn't win we needed to make sure my brother K.C. didn't win again. We didn't want him sweeping the board.
|Jax making Uncle K.C. and Uncle Collin dirt cake|
Matt tallied up the votes and announced the top three chilies. In third place was our friend, Neuman. He made "The Neuman Family Recipe" which is a sweeter chili. In second place was our friend, Sam. He made a chili that had a great sweet start but finished with some heat. His was also the one that had a bit of cinnamon or something in it making it stand out. In first place.......
Wait for it...
|The chili fixin's waiting for people to make their bowls|
Hopefully some day he will share the glory with somebody else!
|The other field of play. Plenty of washers and bags to keep the competitive spirit alive!|