LivingTravelChile roasting season in Albuquerque

Chile roasting season in Albuquerque

The chili roast in Albuquerque comes with the harvest season, and foodies love this annual event. Every August through September, chili roasting begins, bringing with it not only the delicious chili pod but also a feast for the senses. Welcome to harvest season in Albuquerque, where chili roast is something of a religion.

Harvest of Chile = Roasted Chili Peppers

In the chili harvest season, the chili peppers are roasted so that the skins are easily removed, allowing the chili to be eaten better. Throughout the Albuquerque area, seasonal chili roasting stations pop up everywhere.

Local grocery stores, farmers markets, and small roadside stalls display the open black wire cages being turned as a propane flame heats the chili peppers thrown inside. The screeching sound of propane gas fades followed by the snapping, cracking, and popping of roasted chilies as they shed their skins. Someone stands by the cage and rotates its cylindrical drum to make sure the chili pods are heated from all sides. This ensures that the skin will blister, allowing the pod to peel into the delicious chili meat.

The smell of roasted chili is unlike any other.

We strongly believe in local food grown for a local community. With a vast geographic base, the New Mexico locale extends further than other states. But in Albuquerque, during the chili harvest season, chilies grown and shipped from south of Hatch, New Mexico, find their way into stores where people buy food, and the roast begins. People can buy their chili peppers in various quantities, from a few pounds to whole 50-pound bags. The chilies are roasted and bagged to take home, where the final processing begins.

Find your local roasters

During the roasting season, chili peppers are plentiful. Find an outdoor farmers market if you like to help out the local small farmer. Or visit small farms like Wagner Farms in Corrales. Wagner’s has not only chili peppers, but also other seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Supermarket chains like Smith’s, Lowe’s, Sunflower Markets, and Whole Foods carry the tasty pods as well. You can also find them at indoor farmers markets around town. La Montanita Co-op offers local and organic chili peppers. Wherever you decide to buy yours, chili peppers are sure to be delicious.

Roast at home

Roasting your own homegrown pods or just a few from the store couldn’t be easier. Grill them in the open air, right on the griddle. Twist them while blistering, then process as suggested below.

Once the pods are roasted

So you’ve decided to take the plunge this year and buy a huge 20 pound bag. Whats Next? Well, this is where the fun begins. Buy a pair of thin plastic gloves if you are not used to peeling chili peppers. Keep plenty of quart freezer bags on hand. You can also simply place the cooled, roasted chili peppers in the bags without peeling them. You’ll then peel them when they come out of the freezer and thaw, one bag at a time.

Roasted chili peppers peel easily. Working over the sink, remove the skins and place some chili pods in the bag. Lay the bag flat on the counter, so they stack easily in the freezer.

Some people like to cut their chiles before freezing them. Whichever you prefer, each one works just as well.

Red or green?

New Mexicans love this question. It is philosophical in nature and is the official question of the state because we love it so much. When ordering new Mexican dishes at restaurants, you will be asked if you want red or green chili. So what is the difference between the two?

The roasted chilies purchased from the black wire cages will be green chilies. They have thick meat that holds up well for stuffing with cheese or other foods (the possibilities are endless!). The locals will tell you that depending on seasonal variables like rain and temperature, the chili will be milder or warmer than in previous years. That’s true, but commercial pods bought from the local market will likely be mild to medium heat, and if you’re concerned they might be too hot, ask the seller.

The green chili is simply not as advanced in the ripening process as the red chili pod. Red chili tends to have a milder flavor, but not always. Red is great for cooking enchilada sauces and green for throwing dishes throughout the week. Everyone has favorites, all for good reason.

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