Around this time of year in New Mexico and West Texas, green chile lovers buy a bag of chiles and get them roasted. The roasted chiles are then stored in the freezer for the rest of the year. Central Market has brought that quaintly picante custom to its stores in Texas. They are selling a case of roasted chiles for $28. That’s a lot more than they go for in New Mexico, but think of all the gas you’ll save.
Here’s a short history of the green chile and a recipe:
The “New Mexican” chile is a pod-type that was hybridized around 1894 by Fabian Garcia at New Mexico State University. He crossed a chile pasilla with a chile colorado to get the meaty vegetable-like green chile he was trying to create. Known as the “Long Green Chile” by New Mexicans and West Texans (until it turns red and becomes the Long Red Chile), it has a pleasant vegetable flavor–you can buy them hot or mild.
There are countless cultivars of the varietal, including Big Jim, Sandia, and others. Some are hotter, some are milder, some ripen early, some ripen late. Anaheims are the same pod-type–their name comes from a chile cannery opened in Anaheim, California in 1900 by a farmer named Emilio Ortega, who brought the pepper seeds to California from New Mexico.
In New Mexico, the Long Green Chile is further subdivided by region of origin. The two most common names encountered are Hatch and Chimayo. Hatch chiles are grown in the southern part of New Mexico (around the town of Hatch) from certified seed sources and are graded according to heat. Mild green Hatch chiles are often roasted and peeled, then eaten like a vegetable. It is rumored that Hatch chile growers have taken to sending their seeds across the border where they can grow chiles using cheaper Mexican water and labor. The “Hatch” chiles are then brought back into the U.S. from Mexico.
Chimayo chiles are the older more traditional chiles grown in the Northern part of the state (around the town of Chimayo) from seeds that have been saved from the last harvest. Chimayo chiles are treasured for their superior flavor and unpredictable heat, but they are becoming increasingly rare. Most of the “Chimayo chile” sold around the state (including on the steps of the chapel in the village of Chimayo) are actually cheaper Hatch chiles that hawkers pass off to tourists. The best place to buy certified Chimayo chiles is at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market.
This is sort of a cross between the South Texas squash casserole called “Calabacitas” and New Mexican green chile posole. The squash gets cooked down to mush and becomes the thickener for the spicy stew. I use Al Marcus’s Grateful Bread bacon and Morgan Weber’s Revival Meats pork for this recipe.
4 slices bacon, sliced thick and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound pork chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups water
2 cups roasted New Mexican green chiles, chopped
4 cups chopped summer squash such as tatuma, zucchini or yellow crookneck
1 30 ounce can pozole blanco (white hominy)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon salt or to taste
baked tortilla strips
In a soup pot over medium high heat, brown the bacon until it releases some grease and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are wilted. Add the pork and garlic and stir fry for a few minutes until lightly browned.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the rest of the ingredients (except the garnish). Cook covered for two hours (or longer), stirring and adding water if needed. Serve in soup bowls.
Pass around a plate of garnishes for diners to add to their soup.
Serves 6 to 8