Calvin Coolidge Chili

Calvin Coolidge Chili

On our visit to Vermont, we headed south out of Stowe for a day trip to explore the Green Mountain State.  We drove down picturesque Route 7, passed the frequently photographed Liberty Farm site, and eventually landed in Plymouth Notch just before the town of Ludlow.  This little unincorporated community is the birthplace and early home to Calvin Coolidge, our 30th U.S. President.  The state historic site has preserved his home, the farm, barns, the church, the general store and post office as well as the still operational cheese factory named Plymouth Cheese.  The cheese factory profits were what the Coolidge family lived off of because the farming was miserable, the soil, as Cal noted was really a lime-kiln lot, and the area so remote, no access to the rails, it was impossible, especially in the harsh winters, to get fresh milk to buyers before it went bad so they resorted to cheese making.    Resourceful “Vermonners” (they don’t say the “t”) is the proud heritage of Coolidge’s going back for generations.  Below is the link to the Plymouth Artisan Cheese company if you care to order a wheel or two.  I sampled several varieties and liked the hand waxed blocks of Hunter the best.
This site is historical because was not only Coolidge born here,  he was also sworn into office here in the middle of the night by his dad, a notary public, because the sitting president, Harding, had died suddenly of an apparent heart attack while visiting San Francisco.  Grace Coolidge, his formidable and beautiful wife, cast her first vote (due to the recent passing of the women’s right to vote -19th amendment) in a Federal election on November 2, 1920 with her husband on the ballot for the Vice-President of the United coolidgeIn the photo above is Calvin Coolidge and Grace voting in Northampton in 1920.

In 1930, Calvin Coolidge reflected on women’s first decade of voting: “They are devoted, steadfast, sensible. They will not follow radical proposals, but will be influenced by moral values. Nothing can be safer for the commonwealth than the informed judgment of the mothers of the land.”
Calvin Coolidge Says October 13, 1930

While visiting the home site, we stopped for lunch in the only restaurant in Plymouth Notch.  It is called the Wilder House and while the manager and employees were grumpy Vermonners, the grub was good.  Don’t expect a friendly welcome but the food is prepared with love and care.  We sat at the counter and tried the chili with a side garden salad and it was one of the best meals we ate including some of our gourmet restaurant meals that cost a lot more.  Sometimes simple is better. We also split a maple cider donut which are baked and made with hard cider.  Here is a recipe to try.

The cook wasn’t in the mood to share her chili recipe but she smiled a bit when I guessed the secret ingredient was cinnamon and complimented her on her recipe.  I think this version below is very close and can’t wait for the temperatures to dip a bit in Texas for RM and I to try this version out.  We will call it Calvin Coolidge Chili in memory of our day spent traipsing about on his old homestead.  His grave is located here too along with a nice museum.  I purchased the biography, Coolidge, by Amity Shlaes, and read it on the plane ride back home and learned a few fresh kernels of 1920’s American history and gained a little more insight into the making of a true Vermonner.

Calvin Coolidge Chili

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 pounds ground beef chuck (you substitute turkey, bison, tofu crumbles or chicken too)
  • 3 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) mild lager beer – Vermonners love their Heady Topper
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Oyster crackers (required)


  1. In a Dutch oven or large (5-quart) heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Add tomato paste, chili powder, chipotles, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until mixture has begun to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add beef, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add tomatoes with their juice, beer, and beans. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a rapid simmer. Cook over medium heat until chili has thickened slightly and beans are tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s