Aimee stayed home, over-indulged after a long series of job candidate-hosting dinners, but I took my "Ram-a-Ham-a-Ding-Dong" chili to the second annual Unity "Bean Blast" Chili Cook-Off run by our not-so-tame paleo-climatologist Kevin S. and his wife Lindsay.
I indulged in a small amount of Kevin's home-brew stout, chatted with friends and co-workers, met some new folks and had a good time in general. While herself stayed home and had a quiet evening in for once.
What's in a "Ram-a-Ham-a-Ding-Dong" Chili? All I can say is that it is superbly multi-cultural.
1) Take one old Maine ram, well past his prime, and grind him up coarsely in a meat grinder. Freeze until needed. Feel sorry for a good old bugger who fathered all your best ewes until he got in a very bad fight with another ram and had to be shot in the head with the Marlin 30-30. All your fault, too. Your fences aren't good enough for two rams on one farm.
2) Forgive yourself, but pledge never to have more than one ram ever again.
3) Take one home grown ham roast from a previously unlucky runt-pig called Vann who grew out to 160 pounds dressed once she found you, your wife, and your farm and a whole world of nice pig-food, cook the same ham for Sunday dinner one weekend, eat it while watching England actually beat Wales, 30-17 (unbelievable) at Twickenham.
4) Cool the ham, bone it, and simmer the generously meaty bone in Maine-grown Jacobs Cattle beans and a gallon of water and home grown sage, salt and lots of black pepper for sixteen hours, very, very slowly on the same cool wood stove. Eat this as bean soup for supper two-three dinners one work week, and then grow tired of it and make a beef curry instead with a can of Yoder's. Set the beans aside.
5) The morning of the day you actually need the chili: Chop two small onions into long thin chops. Fry in dark bottle-green extra, extra-virgin Italian olive oil very slowly on a cool wood stove, until perfectly translucent and glistening. Add two pounds of the still-frozen ramburger, and let it melt in situ in the skillet very slowly and then cook very slowly. This takes about 2 hours. Grade ten students economics papers while waiting. Take the dogs for a long walk on the snowmobile trail.
6) Towards the end of the process add a half cup of chili powder, a tablespoon of Mexican chipotle powder, two of black pepper and two of salt, and once this has all begun to cook in, add a very generous slosh of very cheap burgundy that wifie bought for the last lamb roast cook-out you had last spring, and a generous crumpled-up handful of the dried sage that hangs above the same woodstove. Cook for another ten minutes after adding the wine, over very low heat, barely simmering. Grade another two student papers. Unload some of the wife's shipping, take a unexpected call from your long-lost buddy/college room-mate in Montana, have her get just slightly ticked off while unloading the rest on her own.
7) Put the beans and the meat/onion mix together in a crock-pot and stir gently so as not to break up the meat clumps too finely. Add a small can of tomato paste and stir again.
8) Cook for another four hours very gently indeed so as not to boil off all the red wine flavor. Finish most of the rest of the students papers.
The results: a very smokey, spicy, red-wine flavored bean chili.
9) Give your chili a silly name and take it to the cook-off.
Cultures involved at last count: Mexican spices, Tex-Mex style, Maine bean farming and hog raising, English and Welsh rugby, French wine sauce, Italian oils, English sage, and an English born-shepherd and a superb American rifle. You don't win the prize, but get a lot of comments on your chili's strong yet balanced flavor, and drink some great beer and have a good time.
Drive home after the party, take your dogs out to piddle, while you're out, check the sheep with the flashlight and notice that a second ewe, another of your best ewes, the daughter of the same old ram, now has a well-defined udder.