Grandma Denes Chili Sauce
by Greg Ratajik (and Grandma Dene!)
Chili Sauce
I'm not exactly why Grandma Doeppers called this a "Chili Sauce". It's really just a base for a bunch of other stuff.

I always remembered this in her spaghetti sauce – it gave it a unique flavor that I’ve never tasted in anything else. It a can also be used as the base for Chili (maybe why it’s called Chili Sauce?), Bar-b-que, sloppy joes, et al. Almost anything that calls for tomato paste or tomato sauce can benefit from this base sauce. WARNING: It’s pretty strong, so add it to whatever you are making slowly, to taste. Treat it more like tomato paste than tomato sauce.

The original recipe was pretty old-school – it calls for 6 quarts of tomato juice. To get that, she would take around 14-18 pounds (1 bushel) of tomatoes, cut the stems out, cut up the tomatoes, and cook until tender – then run it through a Foley food mill to remove skin and seeds. Then let it stand overnight to remove the excess water. So Day One is just to make the juice. Day two is to make the base. On day three she’d can it. Then I guess on day four you’d make what you really wanted to eat. I’d guess by then you’d wish you had just munched the whole tomatoes, as you’d be pretty hungry at that point :)

You can of course go through all this to make the tomato juice if you really want to– but I used Campbell’s Tomato Juice. Any kind of tomato juice should work, just make SURE to get it unseasoned (and unsalted if possible). I also am not much into canning, so ended up freezing the sauce. I like it enough, and cook enough, that I should use it up in the next 6 months.

I ran out of the original canned sauce she made (tons of) years ago. Thanks to my mother for helping out with the original recipe!

  • 6 quarts of tomato juice
  • 5 cups green peppers
  • 4 cups celery
  • 5 cups onions
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 1T Salt
  • 2T Cinnamon
  • 1T Nutmeg 1T
  • 1T All Spice
  • 1T cloves(ground)
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1T dry mustard

As I said, you can use Campbell’s Tomato Juice.

I found it in a 2 quart jug, so used three of them here.
Chop up the onions, celery, and pepper.
Everything will be ground up, so a coarse chop is ok.
Grind the Onion, Pepper, and Celery.

You can use a food processor, a meat grinder, or if very careful, a blender

(I used a blender here, and ended up getting it a bit more ground than I would have liked)
Measure out the spices
Place everything in a large pot.

(And I do mean large - the pictured is my largest, and it was barely big enough)
Cook the hell out of it :) You want to cook this down to AT LEAST 1/2 the original volume. I ended up going to about 25% - 30%.

The more you cook it, the stronger it will get - which is what you want.

You start it on high, but once its lost about the first 20%, reduce to medium. After it gets below 50%, you need to start stirring it more and watching it, as it will burn very easy. You should also reduce the heat down towards low. You'll know it's time to do that when it starts to generate really big bubbles.

The end result should be very thick, almost a paste.
I highly recommend using a splash guard.

Once it gets below 50%, it starts to make a bit of a mess
I forgot until too late, and you can see the result
After it gets to the thickness you want, let it cool.

You can then use it, can it, or freeze it. On this particular batch, I made my spaghetti sauce after I finished up the Chili sauce, and then froze the rest.
This batch was particularly thick - after it cooled down, a fork easily stood up in it.