New Mexico Green and Red Chile... Visitors and newcomers to our state (those who think Chili only comes in a can), sometimes ask "What's the big deal, It's only Chile!" IT'S ONLY CHILE? Those of us who live here in Southern New Mexico know it's not "Just Chile". It's a culture - the rich blending of Spanish, Mexican, and Native American foods. It's an environment - 360 days of sunshine a year, dry air with cool nights. It's people - from the farmers of the fertile Rio Grande Valley to the chile vendors at the Hatch Chile Festival.
The world has discovered what we've known all along here in New Mexico ...chile is habit-forming! Whether enjoying dishes made with pungent green chile or mellow dried red peppers, we're hooked! And while the same ingredient in chile that supposedly makes it slightly habit-forming (capsaicin) is also the one that may burn your tongue, it's the delicious variety of flavors in chile cuisine that we love, not just the heat. For our purposes here, we're not going to explore Jalapenos, Habaneros, Cayenne, or the multitude of other peppers preferred mainly for their heat. When we say "Chile", we'll be talking about the long New Mexico Green/Red types, with names like "Big Jim", "Rio Grande","Sandia", etc. In other parts of the country you'll see similar (but not quite the same!) chile peppers called "Anaheim" peppers. In our neck of the woods, it's "Hatch" or "Mesilla Valley" chile that we crave. (By the way, for a brief treatise on various names used to market chile, go HERE.)
Two Great Chiles - Both From The Same Plant!
in a chile pepper comes from a chemical called Capsaicin,
concentrated in the membranes surrounding the seeds, and extending
down the pepper like "veins". The heat can be somewhat reduced by
removing the membranes and seeds. Green chile is rich in Vitamin C.
The green pods are normally roasted so the tough skins can be removed. The roasting process imparts the delicious flavor and aroma that we love!
(CLICK HERE FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON ROASTING PEPPERS AT HOME)
Summer's end the green pods are ripening and turning to a rich,
deep red color. The chile flavor is changing also, becoming sweet
and mellow, with a completely different taste from the green
peppers. Some of the fresh red pods are picked and tied into the
colorful Ristras you'll see hanging all over Southern New
Mexico this time of year, but they're not just pretty to look at.
Once the peppers are dried they become the starting point for the
rich red chile sauce used in a multitude of red chile recipes.
(CLICK HERE FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON USING DRIED RED CHILE PODS)
THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE ON THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS ON OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL.
SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO'S "CHILE TRAIL"
|Chile peppers are grown all over New Mexico, but the major commercial production is in the Southern part of the state, concentrated roughly along what we've dubbed "The Chile Trail" shown at right. Traveling from west to east, you pass through Hidalgo, Luna, and Dona Ana counties, the state's three largest chile producers. Make a jaunt up to Hatch, the "Chile Capital of the World". Heading east, enjoy the desert and mountain scenery from Las Cruces to Artesia, but there's not much chile growing on that leg of the trip. Then from Artesia eastward you'll pass through Eddy and Lea counties, two more fairly large producers. After that, you're in Texas, where it's strictly "Chili"...with an "i", a whole different story!|
Okay, what's the difference between "Chile" (with an "e"), and "Chili" (with an "i")? Order "chile" in New Mexico and the immediate response is usually "Red or Green?" Chile as we know it here is a variety of dishes where the major ingredient is either fresh green chile, or a sauce made from rehydrated dry red chile pods.
Don't get us wrong...we occasionally enjoy a "good steamin' bowl of Chili", but we've come to demand much more than ground beef, beans, and cheese of our Chile!
Also CLICK HERE to Check out Gary's New Mexico Chile Blog!