The spice comes out when sweet-looking sisters Gloria Molitor and Pam Ward, both of St. Charles, talk about their chilis.
"We will decorate together, but this is as far as it goes," Ward said, while browning meat on a portable propane-heated stove.
"I don't dare leave my chili while she is here, because she will sabotage it," said Molitor, eliciting a gasp of denial from her younger sibling.
The two were among 15 entrants in a chili cookoff at the busy Kuipers Family Farm store, apple orchard, corn maze and pumpkin patch in Maple Park Saturday. The event was to raise money for Conley Outreach Community Services, a nonprofit organization in Elburn. Conley Outreach offers support services for the bereaved; children dealing with the loss of a parent due to abandonment, death or divorce; and for families who have special-needs children.
"The charity today is just one of the best," Molitor said. "It certainly is needed."
Molitor and Ward shared a booth festooned with Halloween- and chili-themed items, including plaques that read "Hot Chili Gramma: It's not the age, it's the attitude," and signs "The Witches Are In." They wore matching glittery spider earrings.
The contestants know each other from other contests. When Bill Pierson of Batavia was detailing where he gets the custom-ground beef chuck he uses, another teased, "local roadkill."
"We all try to beat each other," Molitor said; doesn't matter that Bill's wife, Cheryl, is her niece. But according to Ward, even though the cooks don't change their recipes from contest to contest, the results and the winners often differ. It depends on judges' particular palates, and can even be influenced by the climate, she said.
The issue of beans in chili isn't even an issue, because if it has beans it isn't chili, per the rules of the Chili Appreciation Society International, under which they compete. The Piersons were in 25 contests last year. Saturday's was the first of the 2012 season, Bill Pierson said.
Cooking started in the morning, and judging was at 2 p.m. Visitors could buy samples for $5. There also was a 50-50 raffle.