Poblano, Hatch, Big Jim, Barker’s X-Hot, Serrano, habanero, tomato, squash BOOM! All of these delicious chiles, peppers, and veggies growing in our garden needed to be either eaten or preserved pronto. It was time we had our first cookout of the harvest season!
Our Chiles & Peppers:
The poblano, originating from Puebla, Mexico, is a mild chile, which looks similar to an elongated heart-shaped bell pepper tapered at the tip. When roasted, the skins peel off easily, making these perfect for stuffing. Poblanos become hotter and more flavorful as they ripen to a reddish, purple tint.
Big Jim Chiles
These Hatch chiles were developed at New Mexico State University and happen to be the largest variety of green chiles in the U.S. Big Jim’s are meaty, easy to peel when roasted, mildly spicy, and make delicious chile rellenos. To get the most flavor, we prefer to pick them a little past the green stage when they’re beginning to show reddish blotches.
Also developed at New Mexico State University, these popular, shiny, elongated green and red chiles are considered medium hot and can be used for a broad range of recipes. Harvesting these flavorful chiles green or red depends on the dish. In my opinion, they’re just as spicy green as when they turn red- the question is, do I want to do a red sauce or green sauce? Hatch chiles are perfect for roasting, chopping whole with the skin (not a good peeling chile), with or without seeds. This is my go-to chile for everything from enchilada sauce, mole, and grilled cheese sandwiches to chile infused fresh squeezed lemonade.
Barker’s X-Hot Chile
The Barker’s X-Hot is also from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico and is the smallest variety of Hatch chile in the area. However, looks can be deceiving. This Hatch Mini-Me provides a powerful fiery punch!
The Serrano chile is named after the sierras, or mountains, in its originating areas of Puebla and Hildago, Mexico. Considered a medium to medium hot pepper, spicier than a jalapeno, it’s usually diced up fresh and used in salsas. Picking green or red in its maturity depends on the type of dish it’s being used for since both stages are spicy and flavorful. Red, however, can be dehydrated and made into a powder or seasoning.
The habanero chili pepper originated in the Amazon region, spread north to Mexico, and was distributed to the Caribbean where it was named after La Habana, or what we westerner’s know as Havana, Cuba. This is one of the hottest peppers we grow and we use them sparingly in sauces and dishes. A little piece goes a long way! They’re picked when they ripen to a bright orange color and can be minced fresh or dehydrated and made into an extremely potent powder. Although super hot, habaneros have a distinct florally sweet taste that provides the perfect balance of flavors in honey mustard, orange marmalade, and squash curry recipes.
Every week, we’ve had a ridiculous abundance of heirloom variety tomatoes, and have been putting a lot of time and effort into jarring sauces, making fresh salsas, blanching, roasting, stewing, and freezing. For most of the salsas and sauces we make, we’ve found that the combination of roasting and stewing brings out maximum flavor in our recipes. Homegrown tomatoes have such a fresh, sweet, tasty flavor that puts store bought tomatoes to shame. Being tomato snobs, we never buy tomatoes, and we don’t have to with all we have preserved in jars and in the chest freezer. Enough snobbishness and down to the technique:
Usually, we sauté crushed garlic in a bit of olive oil until the flavors fuse together and the pan is hot. After washing, cutting out stems and any imperfections, we place them in the pan at medium high, and let them cook until the bottoms are roasted dark brown and the bottom half of the tomatoes are stewed. This usually takes about 20-30 minutes. During our cookout, we stew/roasted a crateful of various types of tomatoes from our garden in a pot on a Cajun cooker. The flavor was amazing! We made chipotle style salsa with our chopped roasted Hatch chiles and stew roasted tomatoes that become one of our all time favorites. I divided the rest of the tomatoes into quart-sized Ziploc bags and froze them for the near future use.
Hubbard True Green Improved Squash:
How on earth does a gardener break open 22 and 30 pound squash with bullet proof skin?…..
And that’s how we did it. After the Hubbard showdown, we placed several pieces at a time in boiling water on the Cajun cooker until softened. After each batch cooled, the sweet orange flesh peeled away easily from the tough outer shell. Once all of the meat from both squash was gathered, we threw the sweet goodness back into the pot with a combination of fresh water and chicken broth where we let it simmer and soften until we were able to smash it up into lumpy puree.
The pH balance of squash is unsafe for jarring; therefore, I usually bag and freeze it in quart-sized Ziploc bags for preservation. Hubbard squash is naturally sweet, hearty, and full of flavor. We love it as the main feature in curry dishes, soups, and pies.
Although I’ll be missing the Hatch Chile Festival in New Mexico’s Hatch Valley, I am grateful for the harvest we’ve had here at Casa del Norte, and a little Hatch themed chile festival we could call our own.