It’s Hatch Chile season… as if I needed another reason to enjoy chiles :)

Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche – August 17, 2017

 

According to our local Porter’s grocery stores, it’s Hatch Chile Season. According to me, it’s always chile season, whether they come from the small New Mexico village of Hatch or not.

Hatch is located between Las Cruces and one of my favorite New Mexico towns, Truth or Consequences (the mineral baths in “T or C” are some of my favorite places to soak). Hatch is known for producing some of the finest green and red chile peppers available.

The Hatch Valley also grows bountiful crops of onions, pecans, alfalfa, lettuce, cabbage, sweet potatoes, wheat, cotton and “experimental” crops. The New Mexico Chile Pepper is the state’s vegetable, and there are many varieties of peppers grown in the state. Only peppers grown in the Hatch Valley are true Hatch chiles. They come in mild, medium and hot so you can pick your peppers’ heat.

Chile peppers originated in Mexico and have been a part of humans’ diets since about 7500 B.C. Recent research shows they were domesticated about 6000 years ago, and were one of the very first self-pollinating crops to grow in Mexico, Central and South America. Out of 26 known species of chile pepper, only five are domesticated.

Lately, I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own green and red chile sauces. No more canned or jarred red or green sauce for us, it’s homemade. I keep a supply of dried red Hatch chiles that I clean, reconstitute and cook to create an authentic sauce for enchiladas at home. I know they’re going to be good if they make me sneeze while prepping and cooking them.

Red chiles boiling from a dried state.
Dried chiles boiling in preparation for a homemade enchilada sauce.

Whenever I can pick up fresh New Mexico chiles, I grab them by the bagful so that I can throw them on the barbecue pit to roast or toss them in the oven and broil them until the skins are charred and bubbly, rendering them ready for sauce-making as well as for using them in various recipes that call for green chiles. I’ve got a bag of “Hot” Hatch green chiles awaiting their fate at this very moment.

Update: the fate of half a dozen hot Hatch chiles is partially shown below in a bowl of Green Chile Stew. Recipe follows.


Green chiles roasting on the barbecue pit.
Green chiles roasting because green chiles are just delicious.

Anaheim chiles are the closest to Hatch that I’ve found so far, and they are readily available all year. I’ve grown quite a few peppers from seeds saved from Hatch chiles, but have to wonder if they can still be called “Hatch” if they’re grown in Texas?

These are from my first batch of peppers - they were green before they turned red.
I think you’ve probably seen this picture before somewhere… I grew these chiles and thought they were pretty. Turns out, they were pretty mild, too.

Did you know that just one fresh medium-sized green chile has as much Vitamin C as six oranges? And that one little teaspoon of dried chile powder has your daily requirements of Vitamin A?

Hot chile peppers burn calories by triggering a response in the body, which speeds up metabolism. Does that mean that enchiladas are a diet food? Hmmmm.

Capsaicinoids, the chemical that make chile peppers hot, are used in muscle pain relieving creams and patches. I have some in the medicine cabinet at all times.

Peppers are also related to tomatoes and potatoes and are in the nightshade family. Nightshades cause some folks with digestive sensitivity and other health issues problems, so please eat peppers at your own risk.

The original Hatch Valley Chile Festival this year is Sept. 2-3 in Hatch where they will celebrate all things chile. I’m guessing the phrase, “red or green?” will be heard often. I’ll take Christmas, please.

This is what you get when you order red and green on the side at restaurants in New Mexico.
“Christmas” on the side at a restaurant in Albuquerque not too long ago. One pepper, two completely distinct flavors and appearances. Good stuff.

 

Chile Cheese Ball
(this recipe was an award winner at one of the Hatch Valley Chile Festivals in years past and found in their cookbook, the “Annual Hatch Valley Festival Cookbook”)

8 oz. cream cheese

1 medium can crushed pineapple with juice

2 Tbsp. chopped green onions

1 Tbsp. chopped bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped green chile

1 c. chopped pecans

1 tsp. seasoned salt

Place cream cheese in bowl, add remaining ingredients, use only 1/2 cup pecans, and mix well. Leave in refrigerator overnight. Before serving, form into ball and roll in leftover pecans. Serve with crackers.

 

Green Chile Stew

1 tsp. coriander seeds

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef (optional for vegetarians – I didn’t have ground beef for the above photo but I DID have a leftover grilled ribeye steak that did the job nicely)

½ medium onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 to 6 cups of homemade chicken stock (varies with amount of chile used)

1 to 3 cups roasted, peeled, chopped green chile (1 cup of hot or 2 cups medium or 3 cups mild)

2 cups cooked pinto beans

¼ to ½ tsp. salt (to taste)

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the coriander seeds and toast for about 2 to 3 minutes, until aromatic and toasted, shaking often. Transfer seeds to a spice grinder or mortar and grind.

Add the oil, beef, onion and garlic to the hot pot. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the stock, the green chile, and ½ tsp. ground coriander. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add the pinto beans and cook for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve with warmed tortillas.

 

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