Enchiladas for Christmas?


Christmas has come early! Grandma shared her enchilada recipe!

Spice up your Christmas meal with some enchiladas!

Old-time enchiladas

Our grandmother was married in 1907 and she & her husband (and children) lived in an apartment in San Francisco.   She became friends with her neighbor, a Mexican lady, who taught her this recipe.  It is the way the women of our family have always made enchiladas.  When I was 21, Auntie Sissy instructed me on how to do it.



2-1/2 lbs hamburger

1-1/2 lbs cheddar cheese, cut into cubes

8-9 medium onions, chopped

2 cans black pitted olives, drained

1 dozen hardboiled eggs, chopped

5-6 dozen corn tortillas

4 cups oil

3 bottles Gebhardt Chili powder (to taste) (Gebhardt’s is all we use – I do not know how to advise for quantity for other chili powders.  If you use a different brand, you may need to add Cumin with the chili.  I cannot get this in the South, so must order over internet.)

5 cups flour

Sugar (about a small handful)

Salt (Just use your sense for this.)


Enchilada Filling:

Lightly brown hamburger in skillet – not too much;  cool.

Chop eggs.  Cube cheese.

Cook onions in small amount of water until clear; cool.

In large bowl “toss” together hamburger, onions, eggs, cheese, and olives with salt.



Put 4 cups of oil into a Giant Pot.  Add 5 cups of flour to make a paste.  Add water until pot is 3/4 full.  Add chili, salt, and sugar.  Cook over low to medium heat – stir like hell (like Hell ! I tell you!).  (flour and chili must cook.)  When gravy comes to boil (this will take A-while), allow to boil 5 minutes (keep stirring!).  Shut Off.  Put your arm in a sling.


Gravy must be hot when dipping tortillas, so re-heat as necessary.


Now the fun part:

Dip tortilla, place on large dinner plate, place handful of filling on tortilla, roll, place seam-side-down in baking pan.  As each pan fills, pour ladle of gravy over enchiladas to keep moist.  Once all enchiladas are made, divide remaining gravy between pans.  You can never have too much gravy.  🙂


Bake in pre-heated 350* oven until gravy bubbles, about 40 minutes.   Serve with sliced iceberg lettuce and sourdough french bread.


That Chili powder Grandma likes to use is hard to come by. Luckily she can get it on the internet at least! Here is more information about it and the history behind it.

About William Gebhardt and the history of Chili from http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Chili/ChiliHistory.htm

William Gebhardt:

1894 -San Antonio buffs swear that chili powder was invented by William Gebhardt, a German immigrant in New Braunfels, Texas (near the town of San Antonio). Gebhardt ran the Phoenix Cafe, attached to his buddy’s saloon, now called the Phoenix Saloon.

According to the The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung newspaper article (Phoenix Saloon Back in Business), February 19, 2010:

The Phoenix Saloon was reputedly the first bar in Texas to serve women, though not wanting to taint their reputation; female patrons would sit in the beer garden and ring a bell for service. . . There was a deer pen, an alligator pit and ring for fighting badgers at the original Phoenix Saloon. There was even a parrot sitting on a perch by the front door that was taught to say, “Have you paid your bill?” in German. . . A multitude of proprietors ran the saloon until Prohibition forced it to close on June 26, 1918.

During this era, chile peppers were only available after the summer harvest, as chili was only a seasonal food. Gebhardt solved the problem of availability by importing Mexican ancho chiles from farmers in far-off San Luis Potosi, a Mexican town more than 500 miles to the south, so that he could serve chili year-round. His orders for chile peppers were always large because he had to stock up on a full year’s supply and then figure out how to store thousands of chilie pods.

William Gebhardt spend years perfecting the spices for the chili he served in his cafe. At first, Gebhardt ran the chile peppers through a home meat grinder three times. Later, according to a description of the time, Gebhardt “concocted a chili powder in a crude mill by grinding chile peppers, cumin seed, oregano, and black pepper through an old hammer mill, feeding a little of this and a little of that to the mill.” What came out was put in little-necked bottles and then packed in a box for retail trade.”

At first he called his chili powder “Tampico Dust”. In 1896, he changed the name to Gebhardt’s Eagle Brand Chili Powder. In 1896, William Gebhardt opened a factory in San Antonio and was producing five cases of chili powder a week, which he sold from the back of his wagon as he drove through town. He was also an inventor, and eventually patented thirty-seven machines for his factory. By 1899, Gebhardt had trademarked his Eagle Chili Powder.

In 1923, Gebhardt produced a small 32-page cookery pamphlet on Mexican-American cookery called Mexican Cookery for American Homes. This pamphlet was so successful that new editions of it were regularly published through the 1950s. In addition to recipes, the booklet proposed sample menus that included Gebhardt products into otherwise mainstream meals.

In 1960, the company was acquired by Beatrice Foods (now owned by ConAgra Food, Inc.) and is now known as Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company. The blend today is unchanged and is still one of the most popular brands used.