While waiting for competitors’ pork shoulders and ribs to come up to temperature at the Western North Carolina Farmers Market Barbecue Cookoff in Asheville, I mentioned to a couple of fellow judges, with the alliterative names of Broadus and Beth Brannon, that after finishing off the barbecue entries, I had a couple of North Carolina hot dog places to hit, in preparation for a magazine article.
Beth, a retired eighth-grade pre-algebra teacher at North Buncombe Middle School in Weaverville, requested my notepad and wrote down her favorite hot dog chili recipe, saved from the files of Dunean Elementary School in the northwest corner of South Carolina, near Greenville.
Broadus’ mother Icy Brannon was principal of the little school, which educated the children of textile workers. Dunean was a mill village. J.P. Stevens had a fabric plant there that employed 920 people until it closed in 1997. Dunean Elementary school no longer exists either, having merged with another school.
The late Evelyn Norris was the cook at Dunean, and the chili recipe the Brannons shared with me is hers. The school sold hot dogs ribboned with Evelyn’s chili for PTA fund-raisers. Broadus remembers the school raising money to buy new drapes for the school’s auditorium through hot dog sales.
Icy Brannon told the Greenville Piedmont newspaper in 1988, “One of the greatest things that ever happened (annually) at Dunean is the Halloween carnival and the hot dog supper. We would have different booths in the different classrooms. Parents brought cakes, cookies, sweets. Everybody in the community was invited, and they would turn out by the hundreds. That was a famous event—to have a hot dog supper at Dunean on Halloween.”
Just looking at the list of ingredients, you’d assume this chili is typical, but Beth says the secret is in how you cook the ground beef. It isn’t browned. Instead, it’s poached in the water-catsup mixture. She says this gives the meat a whole different, softer texture. And, she warns, the quality of chili powders varies wildly. Spice Islands is her favorite for this purpose.
Beth uses either 93 percent lean beef or ground round, so that she doesn’t have to drain off any grease. Her favorite catsup for chili is Heinz.
“This is the best chili I’ve ever found for a real Southern hot dog, with mustard, chili, and onions,” says Broadus, anticipating it more often now that Beth has ended her teaching career.
Dunean Hot Dog Chili
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon chili powder (Spice Islands brand)
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup catsup
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and mix well before beginning to heat. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until desired consistency is reached. Stir occasionally.