Texas Javelina Chili – Where’s the Beef?

I always thought chili was created to cover for not so great meat that travelers might be getting as pioneers, hustlers, cowboys and some other stereotype. And, in the original colonies, other spices including nutmeg were used to cover for possibly fading meat quality. After all, these people didn’t have fridges.

One of my favorite meals is venison chili and after recently taking two javelinas on a hunt in South Texas, my boyfriend and I have been looking forward to experimenting with recipes. He is planning to make smoked sausage. To get started, I simply made a basic tomato sauce with ground javelina, parsley and cheese. It was pretty good.Bowl of javelina chili with slice of cornbread

This afternoon, I started the chili with spices, canned tomatoes and ground javelina in the crock pot. After I defrosted the meat, I drained it in the colander and the scent of the raw meat was earthy. As if I was back on the sendero. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. I folded it into the crock pot and let it stew for a few hours.Pot of javelina chili with skillet cornbread

A taste test indicated the chili needed more tomatoes and more water. I also added a bottle of Corona Light. Plus some more salt. Voila, it started to taste like really good chili. But it was missing something.

Now, I may lose you here, but I put beans in my chili. Yankee? Guilty as charged. I rinsed and added red kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans. Let that simmer. Or, sink in, depending on how you feel about beans in chili.

Time to bake the cornbread, which bakes in a skillet in about 30 minutes. I used the real deal cornmeal, stone ground from Nora Mill Granary, which I have raved about before. The recipe is basic: 1 cup of cornmeal, two eggs, ¼ cup of oil and 1 cup of sour cream. Bake at 400 degrees.

Adding beer to javelina chiliAfter the cornbread cooled a bit, I ladled chili into bowls, sprinkled on a blend of grated Mexican cheeses and added cornbread slices. And, the chili tasted like chili with meat that was not pronounced in flavor. The meat is good. But the meat is so lean, it doesn’t carry a strong or distinct taste. If you gave a tester a bite and asked what meat is this, I don’t think they would guess javelina.

Don’t get me wrong. This was worth the hunt and the meat is high-quality. It just tasted a lot better when I added something else to the chili: a jalapeno-poblano hot sauce. That is outstanding and brought all the flavors together.

The lesson in all this is we’re are likely to get more taste out of the javelina if we combine it with pork in sausage or just wrap a bunch of it in bacon.

–The Sage Leopard