Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall and Chile: Essential New Mexico

For my family and for bunches of others around the state, processing green chile is an annual late summer / early fall ritual. Again we went to Wagner Farms in Corrales, a rural sliver surrounded by Rio Rancho, the Rio Grande and Albuquerque. There were five of us: your correspondent, spouse Susan Bennett, Lind Gee, our photographer for the day, her husband Mark Murray and my mother, Iverna Morgan.

On Saturday, September 4, we arrived a bit before Wagner’s 9 A.M. opening. I chose the final gate to be opened which allowed about 15 vehicles into the parking lot ahead of us. Oh, well. Some years ago a truly better mousetrap appeared in the form of a chile roaster. This year I noticed a new efficiency-improving wrinkle—a two-chamber chile roaster. See photo.

The Bennett/Morgan group got one two-bushel (or 40 lb.) bag of Big Jim medium chile. The Gee/Murray group went for a bushel of Big Jim and a bushel of hot. A few people got six or eight bags, an astonishing figure given that it took our two groups a total of 12 man/woman hours to process a bushel.

But then our processing approach might be more fanatically thorough than others. We remove the skins and the pods and turn the chile over to a second team for final peeling and removal of remaining seeds and burnt bits of skin. Rubber gloves are mandatory for our crew. Finally, the chiles are placed in quart-size freezer bags and frozen.

The Big Jims processed as usual with meaty chiles and skins that commonly removed easily. The hot chiles were smaller and had a thinner skin that was a chore to remove.

Lind Gee’s photos show Wagner’s sign, the truck load of chile awaiting unloading, roasting, peeling and the final product.

About a month ago we dropped by Hatch. Semis loaded onions and chile left town every few minutes. In a tiny town such as Hatch, such activity creates an impression.

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