New Mexico’s Emerald Fruit

I’ve written before about one of the state vegetables of New Mexico, the chile. For those of us whose local ancestry goes back to colonial days, chile is part of who we are. It’s the same as in most regions of the country: the food is part of you.

For the past decade or so, the quality of our fruit has been a little disappointing. It seemed to be losing its character. In the past few years, an effort has been underway to get chile back to tasting like old-timers remember. As a result of this effort, this year the chile has been magnificent. It has the flavor you expect from New Mexico chile.

Of course, you can’t just go out, buy some green chile, and chow down. Well, I guess you could, but I don’t know that you’d really want to. Most people get their chile roasted at the time of purchase. Your raw chile is then dumped into a mesh drum that is spun while propane flames char and blister the skin of the peppers. Oh sure, you can do this yourself on a stove top, broiler, or grill…but not in quantity (at least, not if you want to stay sane). I tend to buy my chile a sack at a time (about 2-bushels or 40-ish pounds). There is no way I’m hand roasting it if I don’t have to.

It’s then that the fun begins. You can put your roasted chile into freezer bags and pop it straight into the freezer. Many do. I will if I need to, My preference is to peel it all at once, to get it out of the way, instead of having to peel as I go. It’s tiring, but it saves a lot of time over the course of a year as you’ll have to peel your straight-to-freezer chile in any case.

The marvelous thing this year is not only the taste of the chile, but its size. Its almost the size of a trout. Add on to that the fact that my regular roaster has been doing an outstanding job with the chiles—which makes them very easy to peel—and 2011 is finding me very chile-happy.

If you’ve never had New Mexico chile (Big Jims are very  popular), then you are missing out. You really should find some before they are gone.

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