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.