Chile ristras will be the first thing that people notice upon arriving in New Mexico. The striking string of dried Hatch red chile is a popular attraction for anyone who likes the southwestern design. New Mexico’s red chile and green chile are popular, so the state colors are red and green more than anything else.
Most people today only think about chile ristras in terms of aesthetics. They are beautiful, but they also make great cooking ingredients and last for at least 3 years. Red chile recipes are usually made with hot, but not overly hot, sandia chiles. This variety is spicy enough that it will not cause severe pain for those who aren’t used to spice. Because of the fermentation during drying, the chile gets a deep, somewhat savory flavour.
Red chile paste sauces provide more than flavor. Take out the stems and seeds, remove them from the chile ristras, blend it together for about 10 min with some garlic powder, onion powder, and then heat it with chicken or vegetable stock. The entire process takes less then an hour. You can also make red chile sauce that will last up to one year in the refrigerator.
The best part is that you can harvest chile directly from your ristra. To hide the chile, push the string into the remaining chile. The ristra grows shorter as it is used, but it looks great. This two-way decorating is beautiful and delicious, but it’s very sustainable. Ristras make a great addition to New Mexican culture.