Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday encore ~ Take a whiff of this

Since all self-respecting New Mexico bloggers must post annually about green chile, I'm taking the lazy way out and repeating this post from last September. There's enough green chile in my freezer to get me through another month, so I'll wait until mid-October to put up this year's batch. I've got another house guest coming then, and what better way to indoctrinate her to the ways of the west than to make her help me peel green chile. Hi, Denise!

Last week when I posed the question what's green, comes in a trash bag, and is a certain rancher-woman's reason for living, several readers asked what process I used to roast my chile. I wish I could tell you that I painstakingly roasted them one by one over a campfire, but the truth is, this year my neighbor just dropped them off at my gate. The local high school where she teaches had a fundraiser; why bother selling candy when you can sell roasted green chile? I love New Mexico.

Anyway, had the green chile fairy not shown up at my gate, I would have bought my annual sack at a farm market or grocery store or...heaven forbid...Walmart, where I went to take these pictures so that I could show you this time-honored New Mexico tradition.

At Walmart, you can buy green chile by the pound or by the box. The 30-pound box will set you back $19.88, but that includes the roasting.

You take your box of chile out to the parking lot, where the roasting stand is set up. I played chile paparazzo early on a Friday morning, and only a few people were standing in line. On Saturdays, I've seen the line stretch all the way down the sidewalk. This roasting stand was equipped with three propane-fired roasting drums.

The chile man dumps your box of chile into one of the motorized drums, which spin over gas flames. Round and round the chile goes, when it stops only Chile Man knows. He watches and waits until the chile skin is perfectly charred, which seems to take somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

As the chile roasts, many of the seeds and charred pieces of skin fall into the pan below the drum. Chile Man sweeps all this debris out of the pan, then opens the roaster.

Out comes the perfectly roasted, steaming hot chile.

Chile Man dons his gloves and carefully scoops the green gold into a milk crate lined with a trash bag.

He is very careful to extract each and every chile from the drum, then he twists the bag and ties it tightly in a knot, sealing in the steam.

Chile Man delivers the bag of goods to Happy Customer. If Happy Customer is smart, he will set the bag of steaming chile next to him in his truck and enjoy the aroma all the way home, and for weeks to come since the smell permeates everything within a mile radius.

By the time Happy Customer arrives home, the chile will have steamed in the trash bag for awhile, making it easier for Happy Customer to remove the charred skin and seeds before he places it in baggies to store in the freezer for the coming year.

Here's one more fun fact about chile that non-New Mexicans may not know. The red chile ristras you often see in southwest decor? Those are just ripened green chiles, strung together and hung to dry. The dried red chile pods are boiled down in water and pureed to make a red chile sauce.

Red or green, New Mexicans are passionate about their chile and some of us literally can't go a day without it.


  1. I remember that post from last year. Do you eat these chili's in everything? Do you eat them about every day?

    Another house guest ... soon we're going to be lined up and waiting our turn at your beautiful gate!

  2. Chile and fresh eggs. Life doesn't get any better than that!
    Best always, Sandra

  3. I so wish they would do this here, but only once have I ever come across it, and it wasn't a regularly scheduled event.

  4. way cool! I love a "people" passionate about something like that......and you know when Walmart gets involved, it truly reflects all people :)

    I didn't know red and green chiles were one in the ripe and one not yet.....

  5. My friend in Medford Oregon learned that chile-man comes one day a year to his local grocery store, sets up out front and roasts green chile for the displaced or the otherwise exposed and now addicted. He marks the day on his calendar so he can stock his freezer.

    That smell -- the chile roasting -- is the official indicator that fall has arrived.

  6. The Tias in our family make the pilgrimage to NM every year for chilis and have a family roasting. But now the Texas grocery store chain HEB brings in Hatch chili.

    I prefer the pilgrimage. It may increase our carbon foot print, but some family traditions simply have to stay in place.

  7. Red or green? the official state question of New Mexico.

    Love that re-post. BTW using the flower pic from yesterday as computer wallpaper for a few days. Thanks.

  8. My hubby loves those things! Me? not so much. Sorry...but more power to ya', 7MSN! I'm gonna' show these pics to hubby...he may want to move to New Mexico!

  9. Pat, I do eat chiles just about every day - usually as a little side of vegetables next to my eggs.

  10. that was a bloody interesting post!
    thank you

  11. My uncle had severe arthritis and used to swear by the following cure:

    Take a large bottle of whiskey and place a very hot chili in it. Leave bottle on a sunny windowsill for a month.

    After this time, take a teaspoon of the whiskey once every day (leave chili in bottle).

    This was in the early 80's and everyone thought he was barmy but it worked and now we have capsicum cream for arthritis!

    Personally I like my chili in a nice bar of dark chocolate :).

  12. This is the third chile-roasting post I've read this year, and it's a completely new phenomenon to me. I love learning about these regional traditions. Wish you could publish in smell-o-vision.

    And I love Mr. Happy Customer's mustache. I wonder if he's involved in historical re-enactments?

  13. Oh, Flartus, I'll be laughing at your comment all week. Mr. Happy Customer is just a free-spirited New Mexican. I've never done a post about our unique fashion sense. It might be time.

  14. (Sitting here munching my green chile covered pizza...num..num)

    Have you been making breakfast burritos with your lovely hens' eggs along with your green chile, too?
    had a breakfast burrito without green chile....once....never again! :)

    Great post!


  15. My Hubby made Habenero jelly last night! LOL after tasting it at a recent wedding we attended, he had to have some of his own! I cant eat hot stuff at all, I will cough and cough, just doesnt agree with me, but he says it turned out good!