By Karl Terry, Local Columnist
As the nights get cooler and the leaves begin to turn, the craving hits me.
With a longing like an expectant mother for pickles and ice cream, my search instead is for fresh green chile.
We laid in our winter store of the spicy vegetable last week with a purchase at the farmers’ market. They roast it a five-gallon bucket at a time, rotating the chiles in a tumbling wire cage over an open flame. To me the aroma of roasting chile is fall itself.
That night after supper I got busy peeling and bagging all that chile. Not an easy job but I like to peel it before I freeze, that way we can thaw a bag in the refrigerator and always have it available at a moment’s notice.
Burritos and enchiladas get sprinkled with chopped chile, likewise eggs or any hamburger skillet dish. My favorite way to use the green is to make my green chile chicken stew in the crockpot. With potatoes, chicken onion and chile in a creamy soup, it’ll warm your gizzard in more ways than one on a winter evening.
I know I should use some gloves or protection when peeling chile but I usually don’t — it takes longer and you have to stop and look for the plastic gloves. About a half hour into my peeling session the other night my hands started to get pretty warm. The important thing to remember about that time is not to rub your eyes and to wash your hands thoroughly before going to the bathroom.
I paid good money once for an arthritis ointment that contained the active ingredient in chile called capsaicin. Man did that ever burn. Once you had it on there wasn’t a thing you could do about it. While I was peeling it was the same sensation, but didn’t burn quite as bad as the ointment. It almost felt good.
Our favorite variety is called Big Jim. It’s a middle-of-the-road heat usually. This year’s batch seems a might tame though. The heat seems to vary from year to year and grower to grower.
Many years away from New Mexico only made my craving for the pods of fall more urgent. In Texas if you asked for chile you got something red and in a bowl with beans.
In Colorado it wasn’t a lot better. It seems they hadn’t heard of the milder chiles and skipped straight to jalapenos. Finally we found a family in Grand Junction who grew Big Jims and operated a roaster at farmers’ markets. Prior to locating the green bonanza I had become relegated to stopping at every Blake’s Lota Burger on our route home to Portales where I knew I could get real Hatch green chile on my burger.
Many say green chile has addictive qualities. I won’t dispute it. But for now I have my annual fix.
Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org