Keep Chile

Ivar Haglund, the legendary Washington State musician, unofficial waterfront mayor, and restaurateur, coined the phrase ‘Keep Clam.’ While this was certainly a play on Keep Calm, (Ivar liked puns a lot), it also makes a fine invocation for preservation.

As we’ve discussed a few times already, growing veggies and fruit and such is wonderful, but if you don’t preserve ‘em, the joys of your bounty are necessarily short lived. Teach folks to grow chiles and they’ll eat well for a week or two; teach ‘em to dry, can and freeze and they’ll eat well all winter long…

Monica grew me nine varieties of chiles this year, from pretty sweet to nuclear, with several stops in between. My favorite thing to do with them is dry them, because I can then make spice blends with ‘em, or reconstitute ‘em for moles and such, and they’ll keep for a long, long time.

Some I roast and freeze, ‘cause they’re that much easier and faster to pull out and use for enchilada sauce and stuff like that. I roast whole, skin on, etc and leave ’em that way; when I pull ’em out to thaw and use is the time to skin and seed as needed. Store ’em in glass or plastic as you have available; they’ll last all winter if you suck as much air out of the container as possible.

Like Tabasco? I love the stuff, but nothing from the factory matches what you can do yourself – Dried and ground Tabascos are incredible in everything from eggs and soup to macaroni and cheese or chili. To me, they’re the perfect blend of reasonable heat and sweet, complex chile overtones; perfection!

If you like the hot sauce version better, mash up your favorite chiles, add vinegar and water, (I like 50% – 50%) until everybody’s floating, simmer lightly for about 10 minutes, then throw everything into an airtight glass jar and let it sit in the fridge for a couple weeks. Pull it out, strain it, put it in a glass jar and bingo, you got your own hot sauce, with heat and flavor exactly as you want it – Chiles are kinda like wine grapes; they do great solo or in a blend, so experiment and make your own.

Love chili powder, but never found one that really floats yer boat? make your own then. I use a combination of Jalapeno, New Mexican, and Tabasco; that gives me the taste and heat I’m after to a T. For hot powder, I zap the chiles whole in my spice blender, seeds and all; for mild, I pop off the tops and remove the seeds and dried membranes – Yeah, it’s that easy and yeah, the former is that much hotter than the latter!

Classic chile powder has claims on it from Mexico to Texas to everywhere else in the southwest. The classic blend is not, as many seem to believe, simply ground chiles and nothing else – It is in fact a blend and the other stuff is every bit as important! Try this with your favorite variety(ies); alter the ratios as your palate sees fit – Have some fun!

Classic Chili Powder

3 Tablespoons ground chiles of your choice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground Mexican Oregano
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground garlic

Put everybody into a spice grinder or molcajete and grind fine. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl; don’t push stuff through – If it doesn’t fit, let it be. Place into a shaker top spice jar and enjoy; try this blend on soup, eggs, grilled cheese, roast chicken, gravy, etc, etc…

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