Tag Archives: Hatch chili

Where is the Chili Pepper Capital of the World?

In a nod to Mexican Independence Day today, and in appreciation for all that Mexico has given us, me thinks the answer to this question is MEXICO. However, New Mexico thinks otherwise. It’s newest license plate proclaims this as truth and features big red and green chili peppers next to the identity number of the plate and the slogan: New Mexico, Chili Capital of the World. It’s true, New Mexico was once a part of Mexico and before that New Spain. Spanish and Mexican roots run deep here. So we don’t get confused, the license plate here also says, New Mexico, USA.

The origin of the chili pepper is clear. The indigenous peoples of Mexico had fully domesticated chili peppers far earlier than 1492 and the arrival of Columbus in the Americas. Archaeologists date the origin of chilis back to 5000 BC in the country’s Tehuacán Valley.  The word “chili” can be credited to Nahuatl, an Aztec language from which many modern terms are derived, such as chocolatl and tomatl. The history of chili is a fascinating read.

There are over 60 types of chilis that claim Mexican origins. These include jalapeño, habanero, poblano, Anaheim, and more. These are the names for fresh chilis. Once they are dried, they take on a different identity because the flavor changes. For example, the chilaca chili, rarely used in its fresh form, becomes chili pasilla when dried, a staple of Oaxaca mole sauce. For more about biodiversity and origins, click here. For a varietal explanation, click here and here.

Here in New Mexico, chili pepper history comes much later. By all accounts, seeds were introduced by the Spanish in the late 1500’s to many of the pueblos and by the early 1600’s, became an important cultivar to use in southwest cuisine. Chili, as in the stew that combines spicy chili pepper flavor, meat, onions and tomatoes, traces its origins to Texas and rapidly spread throughout the region. Adaptations in the Midwest added beans and fat. Have you ever been to a chili cook-off?

Now is the season for roasting Hatch Chili in New Mexico.

The Hatch Chili is uniquely New Mexican, first cross-bred in Northern New Mexico in the early 1900’s by a horticulturalist wanting a milder version of jalapeño. It is available in August and September, depending on the weather. This short window of buying and eating opportunity gives it a caché of being rare and has taken on a mystique of desirability. There is a Hatch Chili frenzy here now. In front of the Taos Albertson’s and Smith’s supermarket, on the historic plaza, in the Walmart parking lot, I see outdoor roasters fueled by propane, with serious young men loading and tending the roasting bins. Bags of fresh roasted Hatch Chilis are offered for sale inside. The aroma of smokey chili goodness fills the air, invades naval passages, causes eyes to tear if you get too close.

Does the Hatch Chili make New Mexico the Chili Capital of the World? Not likely. However, I concede, my adopted state is the Hatch Chili Capital of the World, and I salute her for that. Hatch Chili pancakes anyone?

Where to Buy Hatch Chilis fresh and frozen:

Norma Schafer’s Red Tail Grains Cornbread–Dairy + Gluten Free

We are confined to a smaller lifestyle. There are limitations to what we can do, where we can go, who we can see. Many of us are suffering loss of income, family contact, financial well-being. Some of us don’t know if we can keep our homes or make the next rent payment.

I yearn for Oaxaca. I yearn to take small groups of travelers into indigenous villages in pursuit of understanding and to explore the textile traditions. I perfected a cornbread recipe in Oaxaca where I went to my local mill down the street to buy organic meal. They grind the finest cornmeal and I could not find it here — until now!

redtailgrains@gmail.com or www.redtailgrains.com

For now, I’m stuck in Durham, North Carolina until it is safe to travel again. Many of us are stuck somewhere, physically or metaphorically. (There are worse places to be stuck!) For solace, I turn to cooking — that great leveler of creative output. This falls into the category of comfort food.

At the Durham Farmer’s Market (I go early when it is safe and there are fewer people), I discovered Red Tail Grains from Mebane, NC. I’ve been using their fine stone ground corn meal for several months. It makes the finest cornbread, perfect for my lactose-free and gluten-free diet. It yields a cake-like texture with a fine crumb. I season it up like a spice cake but add Hatch Chili powder for a Mexico-style kick. Great with morning coffee, too!

Ingredients/Recipe:

  • 1 C. Red Tail Cateto Orange Heirloom Flint Corn
  • 1-1/2 C. Gluten-Free Flour (almond flour or King Arthur brand)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Hatch chili powder
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 T. ground turmeric
  • 2 T. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1-1/2 C. almond milk or other plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 7 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1/2 C. sugar

Note: To make this VEGAN, use butter and egg substitutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all dry ingredients and grated ginger in a mixing bowl. Make a well. Combine milk and vinegar and let it sit to clabber for at least five minutes. Beat together eggs and sugar. Add all liquid ingredients to the well and mix until thoroughly combined into a cake-like batter — the consistency of pancake mix.

Prepare a baking pan. I use a 10″ cast iron skillet, well-seasoned, lined with parchment paper. You can also use an 8″ x 8″ square glass baking dish, greased. I would also recommend lining same with parchment paper.

Pour batter into baking pan. Put onto middle rack of preheated oven. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Cut into squares. Will keep refrigerated for one week or you can freeze successfully.

Enjoy!

Fresh from the oven! Can you smell it?