At the end of every summer, the state of New Mexico shares its bounty with the rest of the world. The famous Hatch Green Chile is in season! During this season, all the stores in Texas offer these peppers for a great price. Usually they can be had for less than a dollar a pound. Since it is a short window on Hatch season, a lot of us like to stock up for the year. There are several ways to preserve them for year-round use.
The most popular methods are freezing, drying, and canning. For our yearly stockpile, we bought a 25 pound case, so we have a lot of peppers to work with. More than half will be frozen, which is a lot more work than it sounds like. The rest will end up getting dried. Drying these peppers will use the same process I covered a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into any detail.
Before peppers can be frozen, it helps to remove the skin. Most peppers have a very tough skin that will not come off the flesh of the pepper without some help. This is where the roasting comes in. Once the peppers are roasted, the skins will slip off. At this point, the peppers go into small freezer bags and into the freezer. Be sure to use small, serving size bags because once thawed, the peppers will only last a week or two in the refrigerator.
I planned on roasting the whole batch over hardwood coals in the fire pit. It works well but was very time consuming. It also involves working directly over an open fire in August in Texas. Needless to say, it was hot work. To roast these peppers, pierce each pepper with a fork several times. Put them over the heat until the skin blisters. Once it is blistered completely, remove from heat and place them in freezer bag or a bowl covered with a towel to allow them to “sweat”. Once they are cool the skins should slip off.
About halfway through, some friends showed up to help. They were born and raised in the Mesilla Valley in New Mexico. We were quickly onto a different method. We built the fire up to really increase the heat and procured a large pot. In this pot, we poured enough vegetable oil to completely cover a few peppers. Once this oil was hot, we started tossing peppers in and letting them blister. As they finished, they were laid out on cardboard to drain. This process took 2 or 3 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes it took over the fire.
There is a method that uses an oven to roast the peppers, but we decided against it. It works well but makes the house smell of chile peppers and can turn the air in the kitchen into pepper spray. Even with 3 peppers in the oven, the odor was strong. We will continue to do all of our roasting outside.
A few things I discovered that will help out… When handling peppers, don’t touch your eyes or face (or private parts!). You can wear gloves to help out with this. When working over a fire, the longer your tongs, the better. I lost some hair on my hands turning peppers. The friends from New Mexico said that a gas or charcoal grill works very well.
Photo courtesy of Sarah’s Musical Kitchen.