Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Autumn’s Last Turn: Hickory Smoked Pit Chili

Banking the hot coals to the back of the old kettle grill, I cast a glance upon the pond, and the skies of gray, rolling over-head. A mist dapples over the20131006_151849_edit0 land, the house, and the bushes down by the water look wet, and tired today. The leaves of the cottonwoods have all turned yellow now, and many of them have fallen to their inevitable rendezvous with the earthen substrates below. One of them, however, landed on my patio, soaked, but still lovely, in this, the last turn of autumn. One last confident gesture of something beautiful, before ice and snow and darkness seize the land. It hasn’t much more to do in its life now. No more duties to uphold on the heady matters of photosynthesis. It need not provide shade nor solace for critters or kin. And it will decompose in time, like things do, and morph into dirt or the like. Something rather unbecoming of a once beautiful leaf, but in the same breath, kind of noble and good. An intricate interlace in the ongoing circle of life. One of which I considered some whilst plucking some bell peppers from the fertile soils of the pit garden. We’re having chili tonight, you see, and I like peppers in my chili.

What better spoil for the pit, on a misty, autumn day, than some smoked pit chili, procured over a beautiful bed of coals. Its real easy to do. As easy as on your kitchen range, but dare I say, twice as fun. I started with the old, black iron frying pan, and a pound or so ground beef, browned in accord. Then I tossed in some diced onions and bell peppers plucked fresh from the garden folds. Sautéed and softened a tad, before adding the rest of the ingredients.

20131006_170141_edit0The other ingredients can be as vast or as precise as you wish. Chili is a most forgiving dish. There is no hard and fast rule to chili making, especially on the pit. So make it however you like. I started with a base of tomato sauce, one can as it were, followed by half that can of water. Then a can of kidney beans, drained of course. A big squirt of ketchup, and a modest handful of brown sugar. Some salt and pepper. About a table-spoon of chili pepper. And a dwindling bag of frozen corn I discovered in the furthest recesses of the freezer. I like corn in my chili, I don’t know why. All this is stirred up and left to simmer in a sloppy-brown communal affair, opposite the hot coals. Let the flavors marry, and get to know one another. Next comes the good part.


The part that separates the outdoor chef from the kitchen dweller. Smoke. I’m sure the cowboys of old, who slept under the stars, were used to a smokey flavored chili, but that is something wrung tight now out of the human experience. Doing your chili out on the pit, with a bit of hickory wood thrown in for good measure, is not only a supreme means of procuring some tasty supper, but you are also paying homage, in a way, to how chili was always meant to be done – over the camp fire. I tossed on a chunk of smoke wood and placed the old, black-enameled lid back on. Tweaked the top vent, and in no time, aromatic plumes puffed contentedly away. Thus, and unto the journey’s end, let the pot simmer away for as long as you wish. And very occasionally stir the contents. This, in part, to stir in more of that smokey goodness, which is half the reason for cooking outside in the first place. Glory!

mallard on pond

Whilst the wood smoke curled up into a gray, mist-ladened sky, I stood abreast of the pit, gleaming what heat I could from it. Hands in the pockets of my smoking jacket, eyes surveying the pond. A gentle drizzle tapping over the brim of my hat. There is a chill in the air, and a dampness to match it. And one lone mallard afloat out on the pond – quacking away. Seemingly laughing, almost, in an upward-raised indifference to the weather. Ducks are like that. Hamming it up, he was, like Phyllis Diller in her prime. And I admired him for it. I admire any schmuck, come to think of it, winged or not, who seems to enjoy the soggy, cold, days of life such as these. For that matter, any day in which he is given. Those wholly absorbent souls who grasp a moment for the gift that it is, and belch forth of its glories anew. That is a confident gesture of something beautiful, if you ask me. Something noble and good.

I muckle onto the hot iron of steaming chili and bring it inside, closing the patio door behind me. The autumn mist dawdles on, whilst the old mallard chortles from the dappled pond. What a good day it has been, I thought. A gift indeed. And another golden leaf dropped from above. Amen.


Hickory Smoked Chili fresh off the pit. Dang people. If that don’t warm your belly and soul on a wet day, you probably have dirt in your face.


51 responses

  1. I love chilli and this one looks amazing. My mouth is watering!

    October 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

  2. You’re so right – chili is a campfire food. Whipping it up on the pit seems so natural. Looks super yummy!

    October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

  3. Monica DiNatale

    My mouth is watering! I’m making chili this weekend.

    October 17, 2013 at 10:41 am

  4. Yummy! Love the smokey flavor that would be infused into the chili. (But I’m from Texas, chili doesn’t have beans!) 🙂

    October 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    • Is that right? No beans in Chili! Hark, well you Texans always did do things your own way down there.

      Thanks Kate!

      October 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm

  5. Yum! Like the picture of the mallard. Along with food, ducks are another love of mine. 🙂

    October 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm

  6. Ah yes … the days do grow short indeed. All the better to cuddle up with some comfort food and the Spousal equivalent. Go ahead … add all the beans you like … let the chips fall where they may. I’m sure she won’t mind. 🙂 Stay hungry friend.

    October 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    • Oh yes, the chips landed all over the place. Out at the pit. In the kitchen. Picking up my socks off the floor. Everywhere. All was well.

      Thanks Kandee!

      October 17, 2013 at 6:36 pm

  7. The last turn??? We haven’t even gotten started down here in So Cal. I will save this yummy recipe for January!

    October 17, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    • Well we are from Minnesota. Things move along a little swifter here. Thanks for chiming in, good to hear from you!

      October 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm

  8. Liz

    grilled chili? You guys still got it 😉 Would think I’d no longer be surprised by what I see here, but you keep pulling (grilled) fun out of your hat!

    October 17, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    • Haha, thank you Liz. It’s all an excuse to be outside. And to play with fire I suppose. It ain’t bad eating either.

      October 17, 2013 at 10:12 pm

  9. oh my. smoked… chili? you should submit your photo to merriam-websters to be featured under the entry for the word “hearty.”

    i’m doing this. have you guys ever given this a go with a white/chicken chilli? i bet it would be just as fantastic.

    October 18, 2013 at 1:04 am

    • Thanks Misha!

      It was a hearty bowl full. I’m pretty sure our fellow blog co-host has done the chicken chili before, and loved it. We’ll have to do a write-up on it some day for sure. My bride will require beans in it anyway tho. That’s just how it is.

      Grill on!


      October 18, 2013 at 7:45 am

  10. Pingback: It’s that time of the year … Wild Moose! | Carnivore Confidential

  11. The cool days are here! This sounds perfect!

    October 18, 2013 at 6:46 am

  12. I am in total agreement regarding the beauty of Autumn in Minnesota. Sure the days are often rainy and colder, but the same people who complain about Autumn weather were moping around about the heat and humidity a month ago and will be unbearably annoying once the snow flies.

    I preferred to mix with Minnesotans with names like, “Dag” and Hans” who would come alive in Autumn breaking out their cross-country skis in childlike anticipation!

    Enjoy the view of falling leaves as you are immersed in the joy of life from that great chili and all else that God’s green earth has to offer! – JandM in Ecuador

    October 18, 2013 at 7:44 am

    • Thanks guys. I will enjoy a turning leaf for you, then, the first frost, and eventually the blue hue of moonbeams over fields of snow. I love this time of year.

      Take care in Ecuador!

      October 18, 2013 at 10:06 am

  13. Reblogged this on Outdoor Living in New England and commented:
    Since subscribing to this blog, my Weber and I have a new partnership.

    October 18, 2013 at 8:55 am

  14. How’d you do that? Again, you read my mind, I just made a huge pot of chili, with frozen corn too by the way, last night! VERY ONO (delisicious) !

    October 20, 2013 at 11:01 am

    • Crazy. Our stomachs must be related. Aloha!

      October 20, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      • POTP, I sure do hope that you read my blog :
        ALOHA braddah!

        October 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm

  15. Nicely put, makes me hanker for a crackling warm fire, a Zane Grey book and a dog curled up at my feet. Winter is indeed breathing down our respective napes. Cheers.

    October 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm

  16. Reblogged this on Social Media Systems Manager.

    October 22, 2013 at 5:45 am

  17. Awesome blog!! I absolutely LOVE it. My mouth is watering. So cool.

    October 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

  18. Reblogged this on 1missionfornutrition and commented:
    Check out this mouth watering poetic blog!!

    October 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

  19. Beans? Not in Texas! Just kidding. I tried to dispose of some Ranch Style Beans (can’t stand ’em) in a pot of chili and pawn it off on Deerslayer. He gently informed me that chili is NOT a place for beans. Duly noted. Your idea of doin’ it on the grill is genius. Well done.

    October 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    • Boy howdy, mrs deerslayer, who knew putting beans in you’re chili would strike so much distraught from the Texan populous. Up north here, folks don’t seem to care much, or barring that, don’t seem to mind a good deal of flatulence! It warms a cold room.

      Thanks kindly!

      October 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      • Don’t forget, it’s already pretty hot and steamy down here in South Texas. Logistics.

        October 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm

  20. The photos of your beef and bean bake sure have brought upon me a hankering for some chili. Notice I didn’t call yours chili? Beans don’t fly down here in Texas. 😉 Still looks mighty tasty, though.

    October 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    • Boy you Texans sure got something against beans! Who would have thunk. I’ll have to investigate further this disturbed relationship tween The Lone Star state and beans.

      October 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

  21. Chilli would be perfect tonight – and this looks lovely. It’s one of those things that I can never seem to get right. It’s always so much better when someone else makes it! I wonder why that is?

    October 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    • It’s beginning to be chili weather indeed. Hope someone makes some for you then!

      October 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

  22. If you didn’t read my reply to your kind response in my “about” section, please do. It really gives you my heart-felt thanks. And, believe me, you can’t believe how “right on” your response was!

    October 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm

  23. dmwlewis

    Looks epic! ::Rushes to store::

    October 24, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    • Haha, yeah it was good. Welcome to the pit, by the way!

      October 24, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      • dmwlewis

        Looking forward to what’s in store. I lived in Memphis during grad school, so I learned real quick what the difference was between a cookout and barbeque. Can’t find anything close to the quality out here in Colorado.

        October 24, 2013 at 11:23 pm

  24. Reblogged this on Hot Bites.

    November 10, 2013 at 6:54 am

  25. wow–I would love a forkful of this right now…..

    November 12, 2013 at 4:41 am

    • Make yourself some! On the grill of of course.

      November 12, 2013 at 9:45 am

      • lol–I am a strict microwaver. I always go out for barbecue :>

        November 13, 2013 at 6:11 am

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