It seems that most of my childhood memories have to do with food. I suppose, looking at what I enjoy in life currently, that shouldn’t surprise anyone at all. Although I haven’t been to Cincinnati since I was seven years old, I definitely have some strong memories of visiting my Dad’s dad in Cincinnati every summer. Mainly I remember the after-dinner mints at Jeckles, catching fireflies in Grandpa’s yard, and smearing ice cream all over my face. Yes, I was that kid. Every ice cream cone was an opportunity to not only eat, but to experience my food tactually. Don’t judge it ’til you try it…
My other Cincinnati memory, although it is mostly from my Dad cooking it at home, is Skyline chili. I remember going to the actual restaurant once — and being overwhelmed with the awesomeness that was the ceiling: blue with puffy white clouds painted upon it! [Edit: apparently this was a different restaurant, not Skyline Chili, but it is exactly what my memory ties to Skyline Chili! Whoops!] Were I to walk in today and see such a ceiling I might not think much of it, but at that age I was really impressed and thoroughly excited about it. Dad would cook this chili often — and in huge batches to then freeze and eat for weeks on end.
I don’t remember eating chili growing up, except for this chili — which is quite different from other chilis I enjoy. This chili is, first of all, served over spagetti. Awesome. It doesn’t have tons of vegetables in it, so the texture is more fine and smooth than some. The flavor is PERFECT. It’s sweet, a bit spicy, and full of character. Lots of spice means lots of fun! Don’t forget the shredded cheddar and oyster crackers for the top – absolutely essential in my house — this is known as 3-way in Skyline lingo! Others add in chopped onions (4-way) and beans (5-way) — every way sounds good to me!
A family recipe that is as authentic as gets for Cincinnati chili. Sweet and spicy classic chili over spaghetti.
- 2 lbs ground beef
8 cups of water
- 29 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 medium white onions, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, diced
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 8 drops of Tabasco Sauce
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp salt
- cooked spagetti (when ready to serve)
- oyster crackers
- grated cheddar cheese
- more chopped onions
- chopped jalapeños
- In a large pot, cook the water and ground beef together over medium heat until the meat has completely fallen apart and there are no chunks remaining.
- Add all of the other ingredients and let simmer for 4 hours. Add water as desired if consistency becomes too thick. Carefully spoon excess fat from the surface.
- When the chili is ready, serve over cooked spagetti and top with liberal portions of cheese and oyster crackers. Chopped onions and jalapeños may be used as a garnish as well.