Our first church in Missouri had an unusual tradition–a chili and oyster supper on the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving. It began in the early 1900’s as a wild game supper, and over the years, the menu changed to include chili, oyster stew, and fried oysters. (A thoughtful mom provided homemade pizza for the kids, too.) Many of us didn’t like the fried oysters or the oyster stew, but this chili was a hit. I was given the recipe, and I’ve enjoyed using it.
In 2006, after we had served in our current church for about a year and a half, my father-in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer that would soon take his life. Our church family was so kind to us through those difficult eight months. They allowed us to travel to Montana to be with him several times, and eventually, they told us to just go–just go and be his caregivers until the Lord took him Home. That last absence lasted eleven weeks, but their support of us didn’t waiver. They loved us in practical, tangible ways that really ministered to us when we were hurting deeply. When we returned, we wanted to say thank you–thank you for being so kind, so patient . . . thank you for being you.
So I found the chili recipe in my files, and we scheduled a dinner on a Sunday evening in place of our regular Bible study. We asked people to sign up for toppings for the chili such as sour cream, hot sauce, shredded cheese, chopped onions, and even Fritos, and I made the chili. As the evening began, my husband told them how much we appreciated them and their love for us. He told them how amazed others were at their kindness and generosity in allowing us to be away for so long. He reminded them again of how much we love them. Our church family really seemed to enjoy it (there are still stories told about people who used too much hot sauce that night), so we’ve made it an annual event. This recipe was originally used in an elementary school cafeteria, so it’s pretty mild and even slightly sweet, although those qualities can certainly be altered.
(Serves approximately 40. The recipe is easily doubled or even tripled. I’ve made it for 120.)
10 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, grated
5 tablespoons chili seasoning, rounded (I’ve always used more)
Salt to taste
1 gallon plus 1 21-oz. can pork and beans
1 46-oz. can tomato juice
3-4 cups ketchup
In a large roasting pan(s), brown ground beef and onion in oven at 350 degrees, stirring often to break up into crumbles. When meat is browned, drain. Stir in chili seasoning and salt. In a large stock pot, combine pork and beans, tomato juice, and ketchup. Add ground beef mixture and simmer approximately three hours.