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!