I'm visiting family in Texas this summer, and I did a triple-take upon seeing the price of green Hatch chiles from neighboring New Mexico: three pounds for a mere dollar! There are only so many chile peppers one can eat in a sitting, but that didn't stop me from buying them in bulk and roasting them to put up in my family's freezer. Like most good preserving projects, this one takes takes advantage of produce at its peak of freshness, is economical, and provides a fantastic ingredient one can use long after the season has passed.
Harvested before they turn red, green chiles typically come into season in late summer. Some varieties include Anaheim, California, Poblano, and Pasilla. Those grown in the area near Hatch, New Mexico, are the most celebrated due to their short season and excellent flavor — a result of the region's hot days and cool nights. If you live someplace where chiles are abundant, you might get to attend annual festivals where the peppers are roasted in big drums. Roasting is a must before freezing the chiles, giving them a deep, smoky aroma and making them a snap to peel.
However, even if you aren't attending a roasting event, green chiles are easy to roast at home no matter what kind of heat source you have. In addition to the simple broiler method I'm highlighting here, you can use a barbecue grill, a gas or electric stove, or a torch (see Recipe Notes). Store the roasted peppers in the freezer and use them throughout the year to flavor stews, chilis, casseroles, salsas, and more. I especially like adding chopped green chiles to corn bread. See these posts for more ideas and recipes:
Choose fresh chiles that are heavy, smooth, and crisp.
How To Roast and Freeze Green Chiles
What You Need
Towel for drying
Paper bag, food-safe plastic bag, or heat-safe covered bowl
Freezer bag(s) or shallow, freezer-safe container(s)
Cutting board (optional)
Gloves to protect your hands (optional)
- Select chiles: Choose fresh chiles that are heavy, smooth, and crisp. Straight and flat chiles, as opposed to curled ones, roast more evenly. Plan to roast the chiles within a few days of picking or purchasing them.
- Preheat the broiler: Position a rack 4 to 6 inches below the heating element of your broiler and preheat to high or 400° to 450°F.
- Wash and dry the chiles: Rinse the chiles and dry them with a towel.
- Place the chiles on a baking sheet: Arrange the chiles in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet(s).
- Roast the chiles on one side: Place the chiles under the broiler and roast until the skin is charred and blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes. Avoid completely blackening the chiles; you're looking for them to be about 60% to 70% charred.
- Turn them over and roast the other side: Using tongs, flip the chiles over and broil on the other side until the skin is charred and blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes. Again, avoid completely blackening the chiles; you're looking for them to be about 60% to 70% charred.
- Steam the peppers to loosen the peel: Remove the chiles from the broiler and place them in a paper bag, food-safe plastic bag, or heat-safe bowl. Close the bag or cover the bowl, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. The steam will help loosen the peel from the chiles.
- Peel, seed, chop (optional): The chiles may be peeled and seeded prior to freezing or later, as needed. You may wish to wear gloves to protect your hands, especially if you are processing a large quantity of chiles. To peel, pull the skin off the chile; it should come off fairly easily, but you can use a knife to cut away any stubborn bits. Seeds and membranes are most easily scraped out with a spoon. If you want, you can also chop the chiles into smaller pieces.
- Cool the chiles: Chiles should be completely cool before freezing them. For food safety, whole chiles can be cooled at room temperature for up to 2 hours after roasting them, or refrigerated for up to 3 days. Seeded or chopped chiles are generally cool enough by the time you finish processing them.
- Place the chiles in freezer containers: Use plastic freezer bags or shallow containers, which help prevent freezer burn. Arrange whole chiles in a single, flat layer to ensure even freezing and to prevent them from sticking together. If using bags, press as much air out as possible. Alternatively, you can freeze the chiles in a single layer on a tray, then transfer them to a container once frozen solid. Chopped chiles may be frozen in ice cube trays and then transferred to a container.
- Freeze for up to a year. Store the chiles in the freezer for up to a year and thaw in the refrigerator before using.
Recipe Notes - Alternative Roasting Methods:
- Outdoor grill: Roast chiles directly on the grill, watching them closely and turning over as needed.
- Electric or gas burner: Cover the burner with wire mesh and roast chiles on top, turning over as needed.
- Cast iron skillet: Roast chiles in a skillet over medium-high heat, turning over as needed.
- Open flame: Holding a chile pepper with tongs, carefully char it over an open gas flame or using a culinary torch.
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(Images: Emily Ho)