A visit to St. John’s Applefest means a bowl of Fr. David W. Harvey’s famous homemade chili to many. It is nearly as popular as the festival’s homemade apple pies.
Also referred to as the "Padre's Chili," it's a spicy concoction sought after no matter what kind of weather is on the docket. Even when temperatures soar, people covet the hot chili.
He's been making the chili for at 25 years, soon after he was assigned to the parish in 1979.
Why does his chili taste so good?
"I don’t know other than the fact that everything is fresh," said the priest. "Fresh stewed tomatoes, fresh chopped onions and green peppers."
Harvey grows many of these fresh items in his garden on parish grounds, but he has to rely on parishioners to supply additional tomatoes for the quantity he needs for the chili.
"Bob Nellett use to be my biggest supplier, and then Mick Terry, and now Starr's," said Harvey.
He started out making 10 batches for the festival and has had to add on each year. Last year, he made over 150 gallons, but still ran out before Sunday.
It takes all day to make the chili. Numerous parishioners and friends of Fr. Harvey get involved. Stoves in the kitchens of St. John Activity Center and the Knights of Columbus hall are used.
It takes at least three hours to cook one batch and it then has to be cooled down to 45 degrees or less. Some of the chili is stored in the commercial refrigerator room, but the bulk of it is frozen to maintain freshness throughout the festival. It is reheated to the designated temperature before serving on a commercial gas stove right in the food tent.
The meat is browned first with no other ingredients. The other ingredients are mixed together in bug tubs before being added.
He usually uses a mixture of hot and medium chili powder to give the chili its special "zip.”
Following is the recipe for one batch of the chili. Enjoy!
Father Harvey’s Chili