ambience: crackling and snapping, propane roaster firing up
This time of year, New Mexico is filled with the sounds and smells of roasting chili peppers. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. A lot of work has to be done to ensure that this seasonâ€™s peppers will last until next year’s crop comes in, and it seems like every family has a different technique Many people still roast chilies on the stove top or in the oven, but others have taken to the new, timesaving propane machine. John Vigil of Santa Fe learned to roast chilies when he was a child.
“Well, this is a long time ago watching my mom do it on the stove at the house. What she would do, she would spread the chili outside on the ground, and water it down real good so it would be nice and wet, and then fire up the old coal stove, and would roast in on top, two or three at a time. It seemed like it took forever to do one 35 pound bag, which took about 3-4 days. Nowadays, I like to roast chili in my electric machine, which only takes me 5 minutes.”
Johnâ€™s propane-fueled roaster blows hot air into rotating drums, and he can roast 35 sizzling pounds of peppers at once. In no time at all, his chilies are ready for the next step.
“Once they are roasted I put them in a plastic bag which I seal, and I leave them in the plastic bag for three to four hours so that they will steam real good. Afterwards, they cool down, open bag, take the chilies out, spread them on the table, and then peel them one at a time. The skins come off real easy and you can use them for a green chili stew….ham and eggs, potatoes, and a little bit of cheese and garlic salt. It makes a very good breakfast.”
Chilies that aren’t eaten immediately are frozen with their skins still intact, which helps retain the flavor so that they can be enjoyed until next year’s chili season rolls around.
.Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.