Along the Natchez Trace

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Red or Green?

If you're from New Mexico you know exactly what that post title means.  Chili peppers are grown in the Rio Grande Valley and the Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants will all ask you if you want red or green (chili salsa) with your entree.  While we often buy our chilies about 50 miles south of Albuquerque, in the tiny town of San Antonio, at Sechler's, or sometimes from Rosales' in Lemitar, the town of Hatch, which is on I25,  just north of Las Cruces ( on I 10)  is known as the Chili Capitol.  

When you drive through Hatch, you'll see many, many places that sell chilies and chili products.  Ristras are very popular during the Christmas holidays.  Those are beautiful "garlands" of chilies...  strung together to form long strands of colorful peppers.  

Right now green chili peppers are being harvested and sold.  (the red ones will come a bit later).  The window for buying green is fairly short.  If you were in New Mexico now, you'd see chilies being roasted in all the major supermarkets as well as roadside stands and farmer's markets.

We won't be heading to New Mexico for at least another week...  the chili peppers are being harvested a little earlier than usual this year...  we were hoping that we'd be there in time to stock up on the green as it's a favorite of both Bill and me.  

We shop at the H.E.B. grocery in Granbury, Texas and when we were there last week, we saw the flyers that were announcing that August 7 through the 20th would be "Hatch Green Chili Days".  Of course on August 7th we headed up to Granbury to check it out.

Yes, the sign was up in the parking lot, but there was very little in the store indicating any festivities.  I asked about... seems the big "to-do" would start on the weekend.  So yesterday, we headed back up.

All Right!  They're roasting chilies right in front of the store!
A case (just over a bushel) of chilies takes about 20-25 minutes to roast.  If you're not familiar with chilies, they have a "plastic-like" skin ...  kind of like the skin on a tomato.  If you roast the chili, the skin chars and if roasted properly, will slip right off, leaving a tasty, tender chili.  

We asked about cost...  a case cost $25.  You can buy lesser quantities of the peppers inside the store... I think they were about $3.00 a pound.  They are roasted, but not peeled...  you do that when you get them home.  

In fact, you can buy ALL KINDS of Hatch chili products in the store this week!
I didn't even know that there are so many Hatch products available.
These are just a few of the items displayed throughout the store.

If you just want to buy the peppers fresh, you can do that as well.
 If you've ever grown peppers you are probably familiar with Anaheim and Big Jim varieties.  Those are the kinds for sale here...  and they come in hot, medium and mild "heat" range.

After checking out the displays, Bill went back outside and had them roast a half case of medium and a half case of hot green chilies.  We continued our shopping and by the time we were finished, our chilies were bagged, in a box and ready to take home.

Now the real work begins!   
The upper left photo is a little less than half of the hot peppers.  They are charred black and my job was to cut off the top, de-seed as much as I could, remove the charred skin, rinse, drain and bag.
Hot peppers can really hurt as the capsicum (oils) that give it the spicy zip can be absorbed in your skin causing burning and even blistering.  Many people wear gloves while processing peppers, but my hands have become kind of used to it and I seldom need gloves these days.

The upper middle and right photos show me working with the charred skin.  In the lower left I'm rinsing the pepper, and the lower right are bags ready to be frozen.  I put about a dozen peppers in a bag, make sure the bag is flat so they will stack in the freezer.

Some folks just bag their roasted chilies, charred skin, stem and all and freeze them.  I believe the skin is supposed to be easier to remove after it's been frozen, but I prefer doing it all first so that when I want to use a bag of chilies, the work is already done.

It took me just over 3 hours to clean and bag that bushel of peppers.  I believe we got 12 bags of hot and 12 bags of medium stashed in the freezer.  Our motorhome has only an RV size Dometic fridge/freezer, so we'll leave some here at Celeste's for future use.

We'll be heading over Albuquerque way in a week or so...  maybe the green chilies will still be sold then.  Doesn't matter...  I'll just get a green chili cheeseburger at Manny's Buckhorn down in San Antonio and smile because I have our stash already put away.

 If you're not into eating the peppers, H.E.B. had something for you anyway...
Ornamental Pepper Plants!
Lovely house plants to liven up your kitchen...
And look...  you can choose red AND green...  right in the same pot!

That's All For Today!


  1. Fun post.. We also enjoy buying chiles in Hatch, but we'd never be able to use as many as you do. Enjoy!

  2. I'm definitely not into eating chile peppers, so really didn't know a thing about them. Your post taught me a lot today.

    Now if you were talking about ableskievers (sp?), I'd be all over that. ;)

  3. Aren't those bright and cheery posts for a doorstep.

    Tonight we had something called Texas caviar for supper. Several kinds of beans, right from the can, corn sliced from the cob, finely chopped things like peppers, tomato, onions, and so on and so forth, and wetted down with a little oil, vinegar and sugar. My apologies in advance if this is just some "north of the Red River" slanderous dish, but it is pretty good. My Texas cousin, Ellis, says if you're not from Texas you just from "north of the Red River."

  4. Very interesting post. I would definitely go for the mild variety. We would never go through that many peppers though LOL!! Hey Judy, the Scandinavian Festival in Junction City is going on this weekend - lots of ableskievers!!

  5. butterbean carpenterAugust 11, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Howdy Sharon,
    DON'T SCRATCH YOUR NOSE OR RUB YOUR EYES!!!! Gone to Granbury; wish I could, so I could check on the family plots, in the cemetery...
    Y'all could stop by on your way West and have a cup with us at the RunningStar Ranch,since we're right on your way... 67 to 84 to 153 and 10 miles on the Right.... By the way we love Hatch green chiles !!!! Joyce just got about 20# of Anchos the other day, but don't know if they're Hatch Anchos...
    Hope y'all do stop by when you head West !!!

  6. You're right, I knew exactly what you meant when I saw your blog title "red or green". It had to be chilies! We've been to Albuquerque a few times and it's always a surprise to be asked whether we want red or green chilies even with breakfast. Fun post.

  7. Loved the post. Thanks for all the interesting info about chiles. What's the difference between "chili' and 'chile'?

    1. I believe that "chili" refers to the vegetable (or maybe it's even considered a fruit) and "Chile" refers to the country in South America. I didn't check it out, but they could probably come from the same root word.

  8. Peppers!! It's going to be a hot time in the old town tonight. . .

  9. Dragonfly on your butt!!! That is a hoot!!! Yes, we need to KNOW we are survivors!

  10. Roasted some poblanos for dinner last night. Love peppers and the ones in your photos are beauts.

  11. Delicious. Can't wait to see what you're going to make!

  12. What an interesting post! Having grown up in an entirely different ethnic area, I find that all really unique.

  13. Wow. What a job! This is a fascinating post. I'm amazed your hands stand up to all that!

  14. Fun post, and very informative. We don't eat a lot of peppers though.

  15. Have to admit that chili peppers are not too my liking unless they are the mild variety. They sell some in the supermarket here, but not in the quantities you showed in this post. Glad you have your stash now, Sharon.