What is Green Chile

Published: 17th September 2008
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I remember as a child driving into New Mexico when I was old enough to read and noting the A & W signs for Green Chile Cheeseburgers and asking my parents, "What is Green Chile?"

Green chile sounded weird to me, because I was used to the reddish brown canned chili such as Wolf brand which is made with hamburger and tomatoes and such. I couldn't imagine green chile!

Has green chile sounded weird to you? If you haven't been around chile growing areas, you may also find it weird.

A funny thing happens. With fall's arrival, green chiles ripen to become red. The amazing phenomenon is that the nutrition also changes. In green chiles the flesh is very rich with Vitamin C, whereas when the slant of the sun signals fall-the flesh becomes very rich with Vitamin A.

Eating chiles-any type, red or green arms oneself with myriads of healthful properties. Studies have shown that if people eat chiles 24 out of every 30 or so days in a month-they are much healthier.

Knowing that green chiles are so healthful and flavorful and down right habit forming, take advantage of the fresh green chile season.

Fresh green chile parched and frozen, are far superior to their canned equivalents. Although freezing does soften the crisp texture, it does not impair the taste. Because chiles are perishable and seasonal, freezing is often the only alternative.

Canning always seems to impart a metallic taste and changes the texture and flavor. Green chiles are generally available from late June, when the first of the crop comes in, to late September, when they ripen and become red, signaling the end of the season.

Parching is necessary to remove the very leathery peel of fresh chiles. The process is easy, if your skin is sensitive, be sure to wear rubber gloves or generously butter your hands to prevent a burn from the chile's irritating oils.

Intense direct heat is needed to parch the peel, but take care to leave the flesh itself uncooked. Immediate chilling of the parched chile halts the cooking process and causes the chile's skin to blister away from the uncooked flesh. To parch chiles, first wash them, removing all sand and dirt.

Leave the stem on, then pierce each one with a sharp knife, about one inch down from the stem. For large quantities, cover the entire top rack of an electric oven with heavy foil; if yours is a gas stove, cover the broiler rack.

For smaller quantities, cover a baking sheet. Then place the rack under an electric broiler four inches from the broiler unit; if using gas, place the rack in the highest position. Preheat the broiler, then place a single layer of chiles on the foil.

Allow each side to blister before turning. Allow each chile to uniformly blister for easy removal of the peel.

An option is to roast over an outdoor grill on highest heat. As soon as each chile is parched, remove to the sink, a large bowl, or a tub of ice water.

Immerse each chile in the water. Allow to cool, then either peel and use as desired or to freeze, blot dry and place on cookie sheets and quickly freeze, then package as desired in heavy weight freezer storage bags.

Be sure to mark the date on each bag. To peel, start at the stem and pull off strips of the peel. For rellenos, keep the stem on, but for other uses, remove.

For a milder taste, once the chile is parched, strip out the seeds and veins with the back side of a knife. (Do not try to remove seeds if making rellenos.)

If you are parching only a few chiles, place each directly on a medium-hot electric surface unit, or hold it with tongs or a meat fork over a gas burner. Watch carefully-the chiles burn quickly.


Senator Joe Montoya from New Mexico was famous for this stew. He won the Capitol Chile Cook-off more than once with this recipe. Absolutely critical: you must serve flour tortillas on the side for scooping up the great sauce. The stew may be frozen for up to three months.

Yield: 4 servings

2 pounds boneless pork, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter,lard or bacon drippings

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups canned or fresh chopped peeled tomatoes

1 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon ground Mexican oregano

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

20 fresh green chiles, parched, peeled & chopped

Lightly coat pork cubes with flour. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet or saucepan. Add pork cubes a few at a time, stirring to brown well. Push to the side of the pot. Add onion and garlic, cook until onion is soft. Stir in the browned meat.

Add tomatoes, then salt, oregano and cumin. Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed.

Add the green chiles; simmer 30 minutes or longer, adding a little more water if necessary, until flavors are well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Jane Butel is celebrating her 25th year of conducting award winning schools. She is now launching a new cooking club. All can be found on her website at www.janebutel.com.

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