Like most creation myths, the origin of Cincinnati chili is subject to interpretation. Several sources agree that it was invented in the early 1920s by Macedonian immigrant Tom Kiradjieff as a topping for the hot dogs he sold from a cart. The stand-alone version seems to have been first offered in 1922 by a restaurant operated by Kiradjieff and his brother John. Called “spaghetti chili” it was what is now known as Two-Way Chili (See below for other serving options). It is served with oyster crackers for crumbling into the chili. And, of course, you can still get the chili on a hot dog.
About the only thing shared by Cincinnati and Texas chili, besides the name, is that they both contain beef. But while Texans prefer cubed chuck, in Cincinnati finely ground lean beef is the rule (I used eye round). Furthermore, Cincinnati chili does not usually contain chilies (or chili powder even though some claim that it originated in the city). Also, in Cincinnati the meat is not browned before cooking as it is elsewhere. But the biggest difference is in the spices: cinnamon, cocoa, allspice, cloves, and Worcestershire. Note, too, that torch-out contests to see who can eat the hottest chili are considered rather vulgar in Cincinnati which is, after all, in the genteel Midwest.
This recipe uses a pressure cooker. If you do not have one, just put everything in a Dutch oven and simmer until done, about 1½ hours.
Serves: 6 to 8
- 1½ pounds extra-lean ground beef
- 2 cups beef stock or broth
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (I use no-salt added, adjust salt accordingly if needed)
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1½ tsp. ground allspice
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. cayenne or other hot pepper powder
- 1½ Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
- ½ tsp. salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put all of the ingredients into the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure (15 psi) for 20 minutes counting after the unit comes to pressure. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes then release the pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions. Simmer at atmospheric pressure for a further 15 minutes to thicken somewhat but remember that Cincinnati chili is thinner than Texas chili.
Prepare spaghetti according to package directions and transfer onto individual serving plates (small oval plates are traditional).
Two-Way Chili: ladle chili over spaghetti
Three-Way Chili: top Two-Way chili with shredded yellow cheddar
Four-Way Chili: add chopped onion to Three-Way chili
Five-Way Chili: Put a layer of warmed kidney beans in the plates then add the spaghetti and the rest of the toppings.
Serve oyster crackers in a separate container on the side.