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Joshua Thomas
VanAlstyne Homestead Chili Cookoff guests sample the competitors' products Saturday.

Joshua Thomas
Jan Cronkhite plays saxophone in the Jan Cronkhite Quartet.

Joshua Thomas
Ira Meltzer plays keyboards in the Jan Cronkhite Quartet.

Joshua Thomas
Laurie Stewart provides vocals, while Bill Brust drums, for the Jan Cronkhite Quartet.


Spicy chili recipes warm guests at annual fundraising Chili Cookoff

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 - Updated: 5:24 AM


C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE -- On Saturday, the second annual fundraising Chili Cookoff was held at the VanAlstyne Homestead, sending winter out with a spicy kick and raising money for upcoming, warm weather maintenance work at the Moyer St. historical facility.

Many of Saturday's participants came back to compete for a second time, yet not all of their recipes remained the same. Having tasted the flaming bite of defeat last year, many participants kicked their recipes into high gear with added ingredients or tried something altogether new.

Canajoharie St. John's/St. Mark's Lutheran Church Rev. Zach Labagh said, "my recipe is completely different." While last year he made a traditional chili, he overhauled his recipe entirely this time, opting to go for a "more creative" braised pork chili with vegetables.

The process began when he found a suitable recipe, which he modified to meet his tastes. He started cooking Thursday evening, finishing the chili on Saturday morning prior to the event.

"I've heard a lot of positive responses," he said of his recipe, which ended up winning third place in the "Most Creative" category.

Palatine Bridge Mayor James Post came in first in that category with another all-new recipe. Post and his wife, Kim, have a regular chili recipe, but this year decided to try something different. Kim said, "We found a recipe online that he liked, so we used that and improvised."

VanAlstyne Homestead Society Member John Buck participated in the contest for the first time, though last year, as president of the organization, he prepared chili for guests outside the competition.

He came in third Saturday with his traditional, hot recipe, which utilized "tons of hot peppers, crushed red pepper, cumin and chili powder." The preparation process was described as "painful."

Buck, joking with guests, commented with a wink, "I've tasted most of these chilies and they're all canned -- mine is the only one that's homemade."

Debbie Skivington and Julie Erno judged Saturday's competition, again naming last year's winner Rita Pineyro as the victor in the traditional chili category.

Skivington, a first time judge, couldn't wait to taste the spicy submissions, commenting, "I like a variety of chili. I make some vegetarian and chicken ones." She said she looks for depth in a traditional recipe, an attribute she learned to spot in true Mexican chili during her time living in Arizona. True Mexican chili, she said, has layers of pepper flavor.

In Arizona, she said she also had the opportunity to taste some great Tex-Mex  recipes, which are often genre-crossers prepared with blue corn.

The money raised during Saturday's event will be put toward the ongoing maintenance and preservation of the building. Upcoming work to be done includes painting and refurbishing work downstairs, along with an update of the building's kitchen. When the weather warms up a bit, there are also drainage issues that need attention, both on the roof and ground, as water is infiltrating the structure from the top and bottom.

"All of our events are very important," said President Cindy Sinchak, explaining, "We need to keep fundraising to keep going," as the VanAlstyne Homestead Society is a small group with no state funding and "a big building that needs a lot of maintenance."

Upcoming fundraising events include the first-ever VanAlstyne chicken barbecue on June 7, a soup tasting in the fall, and the annual Holiday Tea in December.

Joshua Thomas - Rev. Zach LaBagh, with daughter Emma, created a braised pork chili for Saturday's competition. He came in third in the "Most Creative" category.

Joshua Thomas - Kim Post serves Palatine Bridge Mayor Jim Post's chili, a new recipe that earned him the "Most Creative" title Saturday.

Joshua Thomas - Van Alstyne Homestead Society Member John Buck serves a vegetarian chili created by The Table at Fort Plain to Palatine resident Skip Barshied.

Joshua Thomas - VanAlstyne Homestead Chili Cookoff guests sample the competitors' products Saturday.

Joshua Thomas - "Most Traditional Chili" winner two years in a row Rita Pineyro serves an attendee Saturday.


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