Time to Hatch

If I ever decide that life at a desk isn’t for me (again), wind up with some extra money to invest in harebrained schemes, or have a strong desire to peddle wares at craft fairs, I am going to become a candle maker.  And not just any candle maker, but a savory candle maker.  My specialties will be lasagna, a morning edition scented with bacon and coffee, and, my personal favorite, a roasted Hatch Chile candle.  There are few aromas that elicit such pleasure as the smell of fresh roasted green chiles.   When I smell chiles in the basket over a flame, I am transported to a happy place full of enchiladas and stews.   There is no smell quite like it.

Alas, I will not be adding candle maker to my resume anytime soon, so I will settle for the scent that permeates the van and the house from transporting home 50 lbs. of roasted chiles.  The smell is impermanent, but the freezer full of chiles should last us a winter — even at our daily rate of consumption.

What to do with all this bounty?  I have learned to simplify my preservation methods over the years.  Two years ago, after carting home a bushel full of chiles in a checked suitcase, I labored for a day peeling, seeding and chopping the chiles to make enchilada sauces, which I then canned.  Although it was awesome to grab a jar of sauce and make enchiladas in a flash, the labor up front was not realistic this year.  Now I simply take the roasted chiles and put them whole (peels, seeds, stems, everything) into quart sized freezer bags and freeze them.  This method is so much simpler up front, especially if you plan on buying in bulk.  (A word of advice, regardless of preservation method, whenever you’re handling the chiles use either gloves or tongs.)  When you want some spice, you can grab a bag, quickly defrost and add to any meal. 

Green chiles are amazing in just about anything.  Now that we live in the Southwest where chiles are part of our shared cultural identity, I realize that there are few things you can’t put chiles in.  Down here there we have chile hummus, chile goat cheese, chile beer and even a chile chocolate.  In our house, we are a bit more conventional with our chiles, but they can — and do — adorn many meals.  One of my favorite winter dishes is a simple potato corn chowder with green chiles and homemade bread.  A little chile goes a long way and can dress up even the most banal of meals. 

Like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter, I have a freezer full of chiles that will be gone come next August.  And I cannot wait to eat them!

Out of the Roaster and Into the Freezer.

Out of the Roaster and Into the Freezer.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Alternative Dryer

Alternative Dryer

Laundry is just a part of life. Even with my very un-complicated laundry process, not to mention minimal amount of laundry, I would still rather do many other things besides actual laundry. However, I like clean clothes and bedsheets just like pretty much everyone else, so it always gets done. Letting the laundry languish until I am down to my most uncomfortable unmentionables is a practice I left behind shortly after college. Is there any way to make laundry more pleasant, less tedious?

Those who know me know that for many, many years I pined for the simplicity of both a clothesline and chickens of my own; two things that signified a backyard and a simpler lifestyle. And, lucky me, I got to have these for a couple of years. Having chickens of my own has forever made me elitist about grocery store eggs, although I am once again a consumer of those bland light yellow things. And having a clothesline made laundry a bit less tedious — it really did. I don’t exactly know why because logically it actually makes the process a bit more cumbersome, schlepping wet things outside instead of idly tossing them into a nearby machine. But something about stepping out, taking a few minutes to hang up things and then letting nature do the rest was more relaxing to me. The breeze did the majority of the work for me and watching the clean clothes gently sway outdoors was a calming sight.

Clotheslines were once the norm and now relics, favored by a select few. Even in dry climates, it is rare to see a clothesline even when more “progressive” green doodads (i.e. solar panels) are abundant. It is such a simple way to save energy (and money) and an easy way to just make laundry lighter, yet no longer common as a part of a household. I have heard of covenants across planned communities that actually ban clotheslines in their neighborhoods because they are unsightly. Seriously? We have gotten to a point where hanging our laundry outside is unattractive yet, culturally speaking, we air our proverbial “dirty laundry” out on the internet for all to see. Is it such a big deal in our culture of over-sharing to catch a glimpse of someone’s undergarments hanging in a backyard? Are we really that nosy to even notice? And, with some of the “fashions” displayed today, are we even shocked by underwear anymore? (I’m presuming that these laws are more about seeing underwear versus t-shirts or towels; I could be mistaken.) I think banning clotheslines in backyards is ridiculous, however I just read my lease, and we cannot have clothes hanging on our balconies either so apparently I too am one of the victims of the ban.

Now laundry is back to being just another chore, another task to cross off the to-do list. I have fond memories of the clothesline and its simple help. I know that one day, I will again embrace this “green” technology making laundry day a bit more pleasant.