I love fall. When the morning air gets crispy, it is time to take a drive along Federal Blvd. in Denver, with the car windows open, to smell the aroma of roasting chiles. As if by magic, stands spring up along this busy city thoroughfare. A tent in a parking lot marks the spot where one can stop and buy produce from New Mexico. Before your eyes, Hatch chiles are thrown into a cylindrical cage, which is turned by a crank briskly over a propane fire to roast them to perfection, leaving them with blackened blistered skins.
The drive home is a little difficult. With the bushel of mild roasted chiles safely stashed in back of the vehicle in a tightly closed plastic bag, a beautifully distracting aroma wafts over us and overwhelms the senses. After the chiles rest and cool in the bag at home for a couple of hours, our work begins. Fortunately, my Hub and I are a formidable chile processing team. We spread the blistered beauties on the kitchen counter with cutting pads, bowls, and water. Handling them with care, the black blistered skin slides off, followed by a whack of the Sudoku knife to remove the top. When the messy process is completed, we pack our bounty in one pound sealed bags to store in the freezer for use during the winter.
Although this subject is more foodie-oriented than history-oriented, one of my favorite ways to enjoy Western history is by connecting with agricultural produce and cooking items from the Rocky Mountain Region. You would be hard pressed to find anything finer than a chile rellenos casserole, or a bowl of Denver Green Chile in the stew pot, when the leaves turn gold and the temperature drops in Colorado.
Joyce B. Lohse, 9/10/10