Fall is my favorite time of year. I love everything about fall (even raking leaves). This weekend marked the official beginning of fall, and here in Michigan, the weather finally cooperated for a change. With a bit of a chill in the air and some rain sprinkles from to time, it was the kind of day that just called for some comfort food. I’m a man of odd traditions. On the first day of Spring, I have to wear shorts (even if there’s snow on the ground), and I’ve been chomping at the bit to have this chili as soon as Fall hit. Well, Fall is here, and I made my favorite chili…and it was glorious. I’m going to share the recipe with you, but first a little history.
This chili recipe is from my wife’s family. As the story goes, when she was a little girl, her grade school class had an assignment to make a class cookbook. Each kid had to supply two recipes and the teacher bound it up and made a copy for each kid to take home. One of the recipes in the cookbook was a Firehouse Chili that was made by some folks at the South Lyon Fire Department. My wife’s mom hung onto the recipe over the years and it’s now in our possession.
I still remember the first time I had this chili. My wife and I were still in the dating phase and her mom made it for dinner one night. She let me know it was called 239 Bean Chili. I thought it must be good chili because my future mother-in-law spent so much time making sure the right amount of beans were in the batch. I was excited to try it to say the least.
She then asked me if I wanted to know why it was called 239 Bean Chili. Sure. I took the bait.
In a funny Irish accent, she then said, “because if I added one more, it’d be Too Farty (240).”
And thus, the legend of the 239 Bean Chili was born (coincidentally, this is also one of my fondest memories of my mother-in-law).
It’s not an especially spicy chili, which is fine with me because I’m not that into spicy food these days. Where it beats all chili I’ve eaten is with its heartiness. Mixed in with the tomatoes and ground meat are chunks of green pepper, celery, and onion. Plus, there are FOUR kinds of beans. It’s super-filling, super-tasty, super easy to make, and it hits the spot on a chilly Fall evening.
Now that I’ve shown you a picture of what it looks like simmering, here’s the recipe.
Mom’s 239 Bean Chili
1.5 pounds of ground beef (feel free to substitute ground turkey or veggie crumbles for healthier or vegetarian alternatives)
1 large onion (chopped)
4 stalks of celery (chopped)
1 large green pepper (chopped)
1 can of tomato soup + one can of water (I use low sodium)
1 can of tomato paste + one can of water (I use the smaller cans of these)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of dark kidney beans
1 can of light kidney beans
1 can of great northern beans
1 can of black beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
In a large pot, brown the ground beef with the chopped veggies (onion, green pepper, and celery). Drain the grease and add the meat/veggie combo back into the pot. Then, add the remaining ingredients into the pot, mix together, and let simmer on low heat for as many hours as possible (No less than two hours, although 4-5 hours is preferable). Serve with a sprinkle of cheese and crackers.