How to Fire-Roast Hatch Green Chiles
The transformation of Hatch Green Chile Pepper plants growing in a field to that magical moment of eating the Hatch Green Chile involves several steps. The Chile Peppers must be picked and taken to a place for fire-roasting. This roasting can be done commercially or in your own home using your gas stove or backyard gas barbeque grill. Then the roasted Chile is packaged for use immediately or put into freezer bags for later use.
Why Fire-Roast Green Chile?
This processing of Fresh Hatch Green Chile Peppers is known as “fire-roasting.” The outside waxy layer is quickly scorched to a char, allowing the removal of the outer skin without damaging the insides. The plant produces a waxy coating to keep moisture inside the Chile Pepper while growing. Fire-roasting prepares the outer skin for removal and gives the Chile meat a wonderful flavor.
Four Hatch Green Chile Fire-Roasting Methods
There are four main methods of fire-roasting Green Chile. In the first, large propane-fired cylinders are usually operated by commercial people to quickly roast a couple of large sacks of just-picked Green Chile. There are three smaller personal methods: on gas stove tops, in the gas stove’s oven broiler, and using the backyard gas barbeque grill.
1. Large Propane Fired Cylinders
At a grocery store or next to the field there are commercially operated Propane Fired Chile Roasting Cylinders. Throughout the harvest, these Cylinders take the just-picked Green Chile Peppers and apply a hot flame for a couple of minutes while turning the cylinder to do the Roasting. You hear a pleasing popping sound as the Chile roasts.
2. On the Stove Burner
Usually, when only doing a few Chile Peppers, the burner on the gas stove works fine. It is important to rotate the Chile Pepper constantly so that while it chars, the outside but doesn’t burn the insides. It is best to use tongs. Nitrile gloves can be handy.
3. Using the Stove’s Oven Broiler
Care must be taken to make sure that the Chile is rotated often to keep from burning the insides. A close watch must be kept on the Chile Peppers while they roast to not over scorch the Peppers. Tongs really help.
4. On the Backyard Gas Grill
This works well if the heat is sufficient to char the outsides quickly and then the Chile Peppers are moved off the flame. With most grills, it is easy to see when the Pepper outsides are blackened.
All three of these home-roasting methods take some practice to get proficient at them. But the taste and importantly, the aroma of just fire-roasted Chile is well worth the effort.
After the Chile Peppers are done in the propane-fired cylinder roasting, customers will take the roasted Chile home in plastic bags or ice chests. It improves the flavor for the Chile to be in the holding sack or ice chest for a while. At home, they place the Chile in freezer bags to enjoy all year long. Likewise, when roasting at home using the kitchen stove or backyard grill, the product is either used quickly or stored in freezer bags for use later.
Being Careful While Handling Green Chile
The one thing I know is when you are washing and cutting up the fire-roasted Green Chile to put into freezer bags, something always happens. You get an itch on your face. Warning. Do not touch your face, especially your eyes with Green Chile juice on your fingers because it really burns. One solution is to use nitrile gloves which are inexpensive and if you stop, you can discard them and put new gloves on when you resume. Of course, if your eyes itch and you are wearing gloves… don’t touch your face until after you take off the gloves. I bet you knew that already. I learned about this using the ouch method many years ago.
Washing the Chile Juice off your hands, if you do not use gloves can be a problem because the Chile juice and oil do not wash off easily. It is best to use isopropyl alcohol on your hands to remove the Chile juice and oil. Then use soap and water to remove the isopropyl alcohol.
For some people, the hot and extra hot might be best processed wearing a good quality N95 face mask to keep from breathing in the hot residue. For any Chile, protective gloves are helpful for those people who have skin that is sensitive to Chile.
There are four general heat tastes in Green Chile: mild, medium, hot, and extra hot. Likewise, there are distinctive Chile variety tastes that go along with the heat taste. Both tastes are important to really enjoy Chile. It is important to get the Chile afterglow effect of satisfaction where the Chile taste and heat taste are well matched.
The Fire-Roasting Chile Question: Clean it Now or Later?
There is a divide among people who purchase or make fire-roasted Green Chile. Some people quickly put the Fire-Roasted Chile Peppers in plastic quart freezer bags and hurry them into the freezer. They do not wash and cut up the Chile. Others people carefully clean and cut up the roasted peppers before putting the clean and cut-up Chile in freezer bags.
Some people would rather clean the peppers later when used, while others want every freezer bag of rire-roasted Green Chile to be ready to be heated and used with no other work. Like the individual desired heat taste of Chile and the Chile taste preference of specific varieties of Green Chile, how to package after fire-roasting is completely your own choice. Enjoy!
Written by Michael Swickard, Ph.D.