|New Mexico may be best known for both their chile peppers and their Southwestern style chili, each of which is available in green or red. And which one is better is always a hot debate in that part of the country. Located in the center of the Rio Grande agricultural territory is Hatch, New Mexico which is the self proclaimed Chile Capital of the World. "Hatch chiles" refer to the five or six main cultivated varieties of New Mexico chiles grown in and around the town of Hatch.
Native to Central Mexico and a member of the chile species Capsicum annuum most of these varieties of chile have been developed over the last 130 years at New Mexico State University. These New Mexico chiles are planted in early April and are harvested in August. By the end of summer the green chiles are ripening and changing to a deep, rich red color, this changes the flavor of the chile as well as it becomes a bit mellower and sweeter as it matures.
During August and September throughout New Mexico you’ll find colorful strings of hanging red New Mexico chiles called ristras. While spectacular to look at once dried these chiles are used as a base in their red chile sauce which is at the heart of soul of much of the regional New Mexican cuisine.
The dried New Mexico Chiles are five to seven inches long and two inches wide while slowly tapering to a blunt end. The New Mexico Chile possesses an earthy, sweet flavor with hints of acidity, weediness and dried cherry undertones. The heat is often described as crisp and clear. New Mexico chiles are often confused with their close relative the Anaheim Chile Peppers (also called California Chiles) the New Mexico chiles, while considered a mild heat chile, are a bit hotter at 800-1,400 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) and more flavorful than the California Chiles.
There are approximately 5 chiles per ounce.
You can add dried New Mexico Chiles directly to your recipes – diced, sliced or pureed. The whole dried pod can be ground in your spice or coffee grinder (with or without the seeds, depending on your heat tolerance). You may also roast them first to release additional flavor in a nonstick skillet for 5-10 minutes. Be sure to use low to medium heat for this and be careful not to burn or scorch. They can also be re-hydrated by pouring hot (not boiling) water over them and letting sit about 10-15 minutes. Don’t let them soak longer as they tend to become bitter.
New Mexico Chiles when ground into a powder is also known as the table condiment “molido” or “New Mexico Molido”. New Mexico Chiles are commonly used in Southwestern and Mexican dishes that add piquancy (or zest) to red sauces, chile con queso, chile rellenos, chile verde, chutneys, salsas, soups, seasonings, stews and dry rubs. We also love to roast them and use in salads, dips and sandwiches. One of our commercial baker customers infuses them into her chocolate.
Some of our favorite recipes using New Mexico chiles are Chile Colorado, Sweet Chickpea Chili in the Slow Cooker, Chunky Vegetarian Chili and Sweet Potato Hash.
If you’re a fan of other mild chiles then you’ll love these Ancho, Cascabel, Guajillo, Mulato and Pasilla “Negro”.