Sunday, January 17, 2021

Library Bar Chili


Years ago, a blog reader asked me if I could track down the Library Bar in Houghton's vintage recipe for chili that was served in the 1980s during the MTU Winter Carnival All Nighter Statue building competition.   It was served all night out of the back of a van by the original owner of the place, Jon Davis.  (to read a little more about him and also check out my version on their famous recipe for Swiss Onion Au Gratin soup, click here).   I kept asking around and old Library Bar employees didn't remember much except "it was a lot of cans".   I finally was able to track it down from a Copper Country fb group member who was a student at MTU and a member of the Undergraduate Student Government in the 1990s.   She was given the recipe after the bar burned down and they were unable to make it for the all nighter contest, so the USG stepped up and made it in the student union kitchen that year.  

Winter Carnival All Nighter in the 1980s was a bit different than it is in current times.   Pre pandemic, campus now has tons of activities besides and lots of student groups selling food and refreshments and campus police busting anyone drinking alcohol.   In my day, I can remember my sorority using our dogsled to pull around a half barrel of beer through town for "refreshment".   Here's a cool picture of MTU students from the 1960s using their dogsled as intended.

The only food available was the Library Bar's chili, if you were lucky enough to catch the van cruising around serving it.    The chili was also on the menu as "Chili with Onions" and it was a great way to warm up on a cold night.   

This year's Winter Carnival is still happening, despite the pandemic, but student groups aren't allowed to sell food during the all nighter to minimize crowds.  Also, there is a first ever alumni statue building contest!  So I figured it was time for me to figure out the chili recipe so students and alumni can make it for themselves.    The recipe I got was institutional sized, I had to scale it down for individual use.   Also, we like our food spicy, so I felt some cayenne pepper was in order.  Leave it out if you would like! I think what makes this recipe unique was the use of green peppers and celery salt, two ingredients not often seen in most red chili recipes.  And yes, it is a lot of canned goods! Here's my take on it:

Library Bar Chili

2 lb lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
8 T chili powder
1 t cayenne pepper or more(optional)
2 t garlic salt
2 t oregano
1/2 t celery salt
1/2 t onion salt
3 c tomato juice
4 15 oz cans hot chili beans undrained
4 15 oz cans kidney beans drained
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 T Tabasco sauce

In a large dutch oven, saute ground beef with onions and pepper until beef is browned and vegetables soft.   Add spices and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat.   Add canned goods and simmer for 45 minutes.   Remove from heat and add Tabasco.   

I'm selling most of my vintage cookbook collection!  If you are interested in checking them out....please visit my etsy shop   Many more added every day!  

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