Almost nothing about moving from Texas to The Great Northwet struck as deep as chiles, or rather, the sudden lack thereof…
Used to growing a veritable cornucopia of our own, as well as being able to find damn near anything in the store, we were faced with no crop and slim pickings up here.
As the first hints of fall drift in the morning air, we contemplated accepting what was and heading for Whole Foods to grab some long-distance Hatches for a bare bones tied-me-over.
Imagine then our surprise and delight when a package from our dear friends at Neighborhood Gardens arrived from Hackensack MN; we truly had no idea what they’d sent, but knew that every care package was delicious to a T. The Squees moniker, BTW, comes from the fact that our pals Grant and Christie who own and run NG live on Squeedunk Lake up there in Cass Co., MN.
When I cut the first line of tape and the scent of fresh chiles escaped, I couldn’t believe my nose! Digging in further, here we’re bags of Hatch, Jalapeño, Super Chile, Cherry, Poblano, Serrano, and Pasilla, all gorgeous and ready to preserve – Heaven!
How they knew I don’t know, but bless their hearts! If ever there was a ringing endorsement of Community Supported Agriculture, this is it – Fresh, organic, varietal and right on time!
We got busy ASAP, and divided things up for storage; large chiles went to the grill for roasting, and then were vacuum sealed and sent to the freezer. the vacuum sealing virtually assures that no freezer burn will dim the flavor or appearance of these beauties over the long winter months, and they take up a lot less freezer room processed this way. A basic vacuum sealer is very affordable, and even better, this is one of those kitchen gadgets that’s often bought or received and never used, so you can find them cheaper yet on eBay, Craig’s List, etc.
The smaller varieties went into the dehydrator with the thermostat set for 145 F and were dried thoroughly. The chiles can then be vacuum sealed if not needed in short order, or stored in glass jars, out of direct sun; they’ll last a year or two easily.
To use frozen, roasted chiles, just pull them out and let them reach room temperature. It’s generally best to seed, strip membranes and skins prior to use, but if we’re making a sauce that will be blended and strained and the variety isn’t too hot, we’ll just pull the stems and seed base and call it good.
Dried chiles can be tossed into the spice grinder and processed into anything from a rough grind to a powder depending on what you’re making. We keep shakers of fine ground Tabasco and Jalapeño chiles handy at all times, as we find they add a very nice brightness to a myriad of dishes.
If your proposed dish needs the chiles whole and/or reconstituted, just plunk the desired amount into clean, tasty water and allow them to return to their natural state. Depending on how hot the chosen chile is and your desired heat level, you may want to remove stems, seeds and veins prior to soaking. By the same token, you might want to use the tea you infused while rehydrating your chiles as part of a sauce or salsa as well.
As always, be careful when handling hot chiles. Everyone has a different threshold, but prudent and cautious are always the bywords when handling a hot variety like Habanero or Ghost chiles. Always jeep in mind that damn near any variety can and will produce the occasional mutant, so even mild varieties can sometimes back a wallop. It’s always better to be age than sorry, so use gloves, keep your hands away from sensitive body parts after handling, and thoroughly clean any and all tools used in processing chiles.
Google CSA (Your town) and see what’s out the waiting for you!
Thanks again Squees, we love y’all!