By: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Three boys enrolled in an outdoor cooking project taught by the Dixon Ridge 4-H Club and Pleasants Valley 4-H Club of Vacaville teamed to win the Solano County 4-H Chili Cookoff at a four-way competition held Jan. 11 at C. A. Jacobs School, Dixon.
The winning team of Cody Ceremony, Randy Marley and Justin Means, all members of the newly formed Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, made “Four-Alarm Chili,” obtaining the recipe from Justin’s uncle, Chuck Means, engineer with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District and a co-community leader of the Dixon Ridge 4-H Club. The boys dressed in firefighter uniforms including helmets and turnouts that Chuck Means provided.
“We simmered the chili for four hours,” Marley said of the recipe which included both pork and beef, plus four types of peppers: Pasilla, Serrano, Anaheim and green bell.
They said it has “a little kick at the end,” but not too much. The “heat” can be adjusted, depending on taste, they said.
Judges scored the teams on temperature (it had to be 140 degrees or more), aroma, flavor, texture and freshness, plus whether a written recipe (neatness), and the overall presentation (table décor and costumes).
Julie Tanaka, a community leader of the Main Prairie 4-H Club, coordinated the event. Judges were Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez Jr. of Vacaville, Ed Coffelt of the Maine Prairie 4-H Club, and Kathy Keatley Garvey of UC Davis/Vacaville.
“The 4-Alarm Chili was very flavorful, and the team understood the combination of ingredients-- the blend of the peppers and the blend of the meats,” Vasquez said. Coffelt and Garvey praised the flavor and the texture.
“They all put a lot of work into it,” the trio of judges agreed.
Also competing were:
--Want Quackers With Your Chili? Vaca Valley: Makenzie Davi, Marissa Davi and Emma Ryder
--Jeans ‘n Beans, Pleasants Valley: Sabrina Brown, Melanie Campilongo, Lillian Tudbury and David Witzel
--The Persim-Monsters, Suisun Valley: Alexis Taliafero, Clairese Wright and Robert Wright
The Quackers Team’s key ingredient was “duck,” purchased at a local market, while the Persim-Monsters featured persimmons in their chili. The Jeans ‘n Beans team entered a more traditional chili.
2 pounds of pork shoulder, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
2 pounds ground beef
Olive oil (as needed to brown meat)
2 cans of tomatoes (chopped or diced work best)
2 cans of beans (one kidney and one pinto), drained
2 Pasilla peppers
2 Serrano peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
2 green bell peppers
2 cloves garlic
Water (approximately one cup)
Seasonings to taste:
Beef boullion, chili powder, ground cumin, garlic salt and black pepper.
In a large stock pot, brown pork in the olive oil. Add the ground beef and continue cooking over high heat until beef is browned (about 30 minutes). Add the water and seasonings. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Add tomatoes and beans. Turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes. While mixture is simmering, coarsely chop onions and peppers and finely chop garlic. Add these to the pot and continue cooking until pork is tender (about another 30 to 35 minutes). Check flavor and add seasonings to taste. If needed, thicken chili with cornstarch.