Green chiles freshly parched, or parched and frozen, are far superior to their canned equivalents. Canning always seems to impart a metallic taste and changes the texture and flavor. Although freezing does soften the crisp texture, it does not impair the taste. Because chiles are perishable and seasonal, freezing is often the only alternative. Green chiles are generally available from late June, when the first of the crop comes in, to late September, when they ripen and become red, signaling the end of the season.
Parching is necessary to remove the very leathery peel of fresh chiles. The process is easy, but be sure to wear rubber gloves or generously butter your hands to prevent a burn from the chile’s irritating oils. Intense direct heat is needed to parch the peel, but take care to leave the flesh itself uncooked. Immediate chilling of the parched chile halts the cooking process and causes the skin to blister away from the uncooked flesh. If you are freezing chiles, freeze them after parching but with the peel on for greatest flexibility of use. Parched green chiles freeze well for one year. With a double-oven range, you can parch a bushel of chiles in one and a half to two hours.
- Green chiles
To parch chiles, first wash them, removing all sand and dirt. Leave the stem on, then pierce each one with a sharp knife, about one inch down from the stem. For large quantities, cover the entire top rack of an electric oven with heavy foil; if yours is a gas stove, cover the broiler rack. For smaller quantities, cover a baking sheet. Then place the rack under an electric broiler four inches from the broiler unit; if using gas, place the rack in the highest position, Preheat the broiler, then place a single layer of chiles on the foil. Allow each side to blister before turning. Allow each chile to uniformly blister for easy removal of the peel. As soon as each chile is parched, remove to the sink, a large bowl, or a tub of ice water. Immerse each chile in water. Allow to cool, then either peel or package in plastic freezer bags. To peel, always start at the stem and pull off strips of the peel. Blot dry between layers of paper towels before using. For rellenos, keep the stem on, but for other uses, remove. For a milder taste, once the chile is parched, strip out the seeds and veins with the back side of a knife.
If you are parching only a few chiles, place each directly on a medium-hot electric surface unit, or hold it with tongs or a meat fork over a gas burner. If parching outdoors on a charcoal grill, place the rack about four inches above white-hot coals. Watch carefully — the chiles parch quickly.