Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Las Cruces Report for August, Part 2: Green Gold

It's hard to explain the importance of chiles here in the Mesilla Valley. Chile is a crop, it's a culture, and it's a big part of the cuisine here. Our friend, Pat, who is planning to retire here soon, calls them "green gold." There's a sign in one of Beez's favorite restaurants that says, "A day without chiles is like a day without sunshine," and we rarely experience any days without both of these staples of New Mexican life. 

When it's chile harvest time, the air is filled with the smell of roasting chiles and the grocery stores sell a ton of those little quart freezer bags. We all shop for our year's supply of chile and a great many of us have an extra freezer just for all those bags of green gold. 

We bought our first batch at the Farmers Market on the weekend. You buy a big burlap bag, 20 pounds worth, right from the farmer...

... then you bring the bag over to the roasters...

... who roast your 20 pounds and pack the hot chiles into a plastic bag like the one on the left in the first photo.

Once we get the chiles home--and what a fragrant ride it is!--we spread them out a few at a time on a pan to cool a bit. Then we plunge them into some chilly water, drain them, and package them (skin and all) into those little freezer bags, 8 chiles to a bag. Once the bags are all closed up, we pop them into the chile freezer, all but the plateful of fresh ones that we peel and eat for lunch. 

It's a lovely, almost ceremonial tradition, and a nice thing to do on a hot day in a shady kitchen while looking out the window over the sink up at the Organ Mountains and being thankful for such a good life.

If you are a fan of cowboy stories (Deb, I'm trying to catch you!), be sure to check out the tale of tenderfeet over on the Remember blog today. 


Kate said...

I'm impressed that as a transplant you are so well-informed re. the technique of buying, storing, and eating chilis. You are incredible!

clairz said...

Kate, we lived here for a short while back in the 90s. I worked with a woman who knew all about the "real" way to do chiles, and learned everything I know from her. Every day was an education, and she even taught me a little Spanish, too.

becky said...

Great post, Clair! I had never thought to freeze them... I'll do that next year if I end up permanent here. I suppose you could can them, too. It is a fragrant ride, bringing them home! I love 'em!

clairz said...

Freezing works very well, Becky, because while they are still a little frozen it is very easy to slip off the skins.

Linda in New Mexico said...

What's not to love about green chile....except maybe....well no....I stand by my original statement.
How great that as a transplant ya know what's happening with, for and about the chile's. The Olde Bagg

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh yes! I've never heard of them being called Green Gold.....around here that's what we call our hay because it's so precious and expensive, too...but green gold is a perfect term for green chile.
I can almost smell them now....mmmm!

To me, the smell of freshly roasted green chile reminds me of fall. And last night the chill of impending fall and winter blew into our mountains up here. The temps got down to the mid 40s! Brrr!

And today, the wind is blowing like crazy and the temps haven't gotten over 60. I'm cold!

This is the perfect time for picking up some fresh roasted green chile!
Ranchman John is in town right now and I'm going to have him take me into ABQ to pick up some of our own green chile tomorrow.

Thanks for reminding me!


Deb said...

Clair, you ALWAYS catch me! I'm going right over when I finish this comment!

I would love to smell the chili-filled air! Sounds delicious; I love the "it's the culture" info I get from reading the blogs of folks all over.

Great post!

Sandy ~~~ said...

Oh my goodness...YUM, major YUM! I cannot WAIT to be part of that tradition, ceremony. Here in western Washington folks know that chiles are in Mexican food and that's about it. Sorry place that this is...

Sandy ~~~ said...

Here in western Washington people only know chiles as "something that is in Mexican food". Sorry, pitiful people...get a LIFE!