Green chile is everywhere, fresh from the farmer’s market or your favorite grocery store. Some stores are selling it by the 25-pound box and offer roasting as well. How do you make sure you can enjoy one of New Mexico’s best products year round?
Experts at New Mexico State University recommend freezing or canning green chile. Freezing is probably the most popular method of processing green chile, and will prolong its shelf life for about a year.
“The most important step in processing green chile is removing the outer skin, which is necessary before further cooking or canning,” said Nancy Flores, extension food technology specialst in the Department of Extension Family and Consumer Sciences at NMSU. “The skin is not easy to chew or digest, and can affect the texture and appearance of dishes.”
Flores recommends selecting chiles that are mature, heavy for their size, smooth, symmetrical, bright green, fresh and crisp. Avoid misshapen pods (to ensure even roasting), shriveled skin, mold, soft spots and bruises.
Cindy Schlenker Davies, Family and Consumer Sciences agent for the Bernalillo County Extension Service, said she recommends blistering chiles in order to remove the tough skin. Wash and dry chile, then use a knife to make a small slit in the side to allow steam to escape. Using a very hot heat source such as an oven broiler, stovetop burner or outdoor grill, place chiles in a single layer and roast for six to eight minutes, turning them frequently to prevent scorching and ensure even blistering of the chile skin. Once the skin is evenly blistered, remove chiles from heat and place in a plastic grocery bag to steam the chiles for about 10 minutes. The skins should then slip right off the chiles, Davies said. At this point, the chile is good to freeze or dehydrate.
Chiles can also be prepared for peeling by using a microwave. Place chiles in a microwave-safe dish on the microwave’s rotating plate. Cover with a secure lid to allow for steam to build up and microwave for seven to eight minutes. Blistering is not apparent using this method, but the skin will have a tougher, more brittle texture. Microwave roasted peppers should be cooled before peeling.
When peeling spicy chile, protect your hands with a thin layer of solid fat or wear rubber gloves. Keep your hands away from your eyes while working with chile. The blistered skin will pull off the chile flesh with a gentle tug and an occasional rinse with water, Davies said. In areas that did not completely blister, the skin can be removed by scraping with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler.
Chiles should be refrigerated within two hours of roasting. Chiles may be frozen peeled or unpeeled, but must be completely cooled in an ice bath or refrigerator to less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit before freezing. Chiles may be stored in plastic freezer containers with lids or plastic freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible to reduce the amount of surface crystallization to reduce freezer burn during frozen storage. Chiles can be stored safely in the freezer for up to a year.
Chiles may also be canned for storage. For more information about canning green chile, visit http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E308.pdf. Additionally, roasted and peeled chile peppers can be dried in the sun or using a home dehydrator. See details for drying at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E322.pdf.
When depending on chile vendors to roast your chiles, Flores and Davies recommend providing your own food-safe containers such as a large roasting pan, clean ice chest or pillowcase to collect the roasted chiles. Some vendors use garbage bags to hold roasted chiles, but Flores and Davies warn this practice is dangerous because plastic polymers and chemicals such as pesticides embedded in the plastic can be released into the chiles. Specific steps for chile processing is found at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E324/ .
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