Chilies of all kinds have been grown and cultivated in Mexico for about 3500 years. According to many accounts, cultivated chile peppers were introduced to the United States by Captain General Juan de Onate, the founder of Santa Fe, in 1609, when the Spanish first came to this region. However, they may have been introduced to the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico by the Antonio Espejo, during his expedition of 1582 – 1583.
Hatch chilies are a special kind of chili, because they are an ideal balance of heat and sweet, though they come in a wide range of spiciness and heat too. When these chilis are roasted, they have a smoky, earthy, almost buttery taste to them, as well as those varying degrees of heat. These chilies are always roasted or cooked because they will be nothing but pure fire otherwise. Roasting, or blistering, is the application of heat to the surface resulting in blistering of the skin, which then separates from the chili flesh, making the skin easier to remove. There are several ways to blister pepper skin for easy removal. When doing big batches, they are placed in a special roaster. When I do small batches at home, I just put them directly over an open flame or grill. These chilies are called Hatch chilies because they are grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico, which stretches north and south along the Rio Grande, from Arrey to Tonuco.
It is Hatch chili season here in Colorado, (we Coloradans love our chilies) and just about everywhere you go, you can find little street vendors roasting and selling chilies. You can certainly buy Hatch chilies individually, or by the pound, which will give you about 8 chilies, but they are most often sold in units of either a sack or a bushel. A sack is about 35 lbs and a bushel is about 20-22 lbs. Either way it is a lot of chilies. Luckily, they freeze well. Often these street vendors will run a special, two bushels for the price of one. We learned just how many chilies were in a bushel the last time we bought them this way, so this year we decided to go in with our friends Janet and Bob and we each brought home one bushel’s worth of chilies instead of two. One bushel of chilies is still a lot of chilies though. Last year, we did not peel them and seed them before freezing them, which made them a big pain in the neck to work with. We quickly learned our lesson, and learned to peel them and seed them first, then freeze them.
The peeling and seeding process.
Our final result was eight sandwich bags filled completely. This will go a long way, since I normally use anywhere from 4-6 chilies per recipe.
Make life interesting. Spice it up.
Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.