I grew up in Idaho, and while my family grew and canned a wide variety of foods, green chiles were not among them. I married an Arizonian though, and quickly became acquainted with south of the border flavors. Over the years, I’ve developed something of an addiction for green chiles. Discontented with the small, overpriced cans of diced chiles available in the supermarket, I decided it was time to can my own. Most of the recipes I found listed green chiles among the vegetables that require canning in a pressure canner because they’re low acid. When I tried this, though, I was left with an unappealing mushy mess.
Then one year, my sister in law from New Mexico brought me a jar of chiles that she had canned herself. Turns out, she’d canned them for years and learned the process from her mother. By adding vinegar to the canning liquid, she safely canned absolutely delicious green chiles in a water-bath canner. Eureka! Problem solved! My sister in law taught me the process and I’ve been canning chiles ever since. Read on to learn the secrets for yourself.
Selecting Green Chiles
Drive through the small farming towns of New Mexico in August and September and you’ll notice a peculiar, but not unpleasant smell—warm, smoky, and sweet. This is the smell of roasting chiles, and there’s nothing quite like it! Although you can roast chiles at home on the grill or in the oven, your best bet is to find some roasted chiles and buy them by the bulk. Some years, Wal-Mart even carries them. In Colorado, my local farmer’s market and produce stores always sell them. The vendors set up a large, black cage outdoors attached to a propane fire. The fire blasts the chiles as they turn in the cage until the peels are charred black.
If possible, try to buy chiles that have just been roasted because they turn mushy if they sit around very long. Take them home and can them as soon as possible. Often times, you can choose from mild, medium, or hot chiles. I usually get a combination, but if you’re not sure, it’s best to go with mild or medium. The chiles seem to get a bit hotter as they sit in the jars on your pantry shelf.
Now comes the tricky part—cleaning the chiles. It’s absolutely imperative that you wear a pair of plastic gloves during this process. The volatile oil in the chiles burns anything it touches—including your fingers, your eyes, and your lips—so be careful.
After donning the gloves, work over the sink. Peel the charred skin off the peppers with your fingers and pop off the tops. Squeeze out as many of the seeds as you can. Then rinse the chile peppers off with clean water and place them in hot, clean pint jars. You’ll notice a few small black flecks of charred skins in the jars. This is okay and actually adds a smoky flavor to the final product.
Fill the jars with hot water, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to each jar along with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Run a plastic spatula around the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles and wipe the rims. Secure the lids and rings and process for 20 minutes.
To use the chiles, remove one or two from the jar. Dice them or throw them in a blender and add them to salsas, stews, soups, and sauces. I’ve included a few of my favorite recipes for using canned green chiles:
Easy Slow Cooker Burritos
Start this easy burrito filling in the morning and it’s ready by dinner. I add grated potato, which becomes invisible in the final product, but stretches the meat a bit to feed a big brood.
- 2 pounds roast beef or brisket
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried chipotle powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 or 2 potatoes, peeled and grated
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 green chiles, diced
Place the beef in the slow cooker and add the seasonings, broth, and grated potato. Cook for 4 to 6 hours, or until the beef is very tender. Remove the beef from the slow cooker and shred it. Return it and add the onion and green chiles. Cook an additional hour. Serve with tortillas, cheese, salsa, tomatoes and lettuce.
Chile Relleno Casserole
I love chile rellenos, but don’t fancy the time spent dipping the chiles in batter or frying them in hot grease. This casserole has the same great flavors without the fuss.
- 12 whole green chiles
- ¼ cup diced onion
- 2 cups grated Mexican cheese
- 6 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried chipotle chili powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the chiles in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Cover them with the diced onion and grated cheese. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over the chiles. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the egg is set and the casserole is lightly browned. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and cilantro. Makes a great brunch dish!
Quick Tips for Green Chiles
- Can’t find roasted chiles in your area? Most grocery stores sell unroasted Anaheim chiles. Buy them when they’re in season and roast them at home. Heat the grill to high or set your oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grill the peppers or roast them on a baking sheet in the oven until the skins are charred and blackened, turning the peppers so all sides are cooked. Transfer the peppers to a brown paper bag and close the bag for 5 minutes. The steam inside the bag loosens the skins so they peel off easily. Remove the skins and discard them. Wear gloves and wash your hands well.
- If you don’t want to take the time to can green chiles, try freezing them instead. After roasting and peeling them, roll each chile in a piece of plastic wrap. Place the wrapped chiles in resealable gallon plastic bags. Remove them one at a time and thaw to use.
- Remember that canning chiles without a pressure canner goes against USDA guidelines, so proceed at your own risk. Although I have canned chiles like this for years without any problems, it is always wise to be cautious. If you ever suspect that your chiles may have spoiled or unsealed, throw them away immediately.