Learn family secrets at farmers market

Thursday, March 23, 2017 5:10 PM

All families have secrets. The reason they are secrets is because they are unpleasant, unflattering, embarrassing, painful, often scandalous, sometimes dangerous, and always weighted with time and tinged with shame.

We store other people’s secrets in our private arsenals, ready to be launched to unearth a little mayhem. But we store our own secrets where no one can get to them, and guard them like a Pharaoh’s tomb.

There are also secrets that distinguish us from everyone else: What secret does Serena Williams bring to tennis? How did Beethoven mold a 45-minute symphony from a 4-note melodic idea? And just what did Michael Jackson’s white glove mean anyway?

But what about those secrets that we love to share? Like the secret to my grandmother’s raspberry preserves or her biscuits and sausage gravy, or my mother’s peach butterscotch pie? Fortunately, these secrets were shared, and a piece of family tradition preserved.

There are many old and new secrets being passed on at the Cortez Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. But you have to ask. I go to the market most Saturdays and not once, have I been turned away with questions unanswered. Bessie White of Garden of Weedin’ told me her secret to making chokecherry jam; Lindsay Yarborough educated me about her pollinator houses; Janette Harrell of Menefee Pottery revealed glazing techniques; Michelle Martz shared her favorite parsnip recipe; and Rob and Mary Wilson will answer question after question about the creative process for their Southwest gourd art. Vendors are happy to share their secrets.

The first harbinger of summer’s end is the appearance of green chile. It has arrived, by the truckload, and comes with its sidekick, the chile roaster. Rex Tozier, a familiar face at the market, is roasting peppers in his rotating drum a bushel at a time. The smell of roasting chile as it tumbles, seeds popping, skins splitting and spilling their juice on to the fire, surely is heaven scent.

Red chile comes as the green chiles start to turn. They all start out green, and turn red as their green chlorophyll breaks down. When this happens, the flavor is transformed into something sweeter, slightly smoky and more complex – less “green” tasting. New Mexicans divide themselves into camps of red and green. Alliances form, romances blossom or wither, and families feud. They take chile very seriously.

There is so much that can be done with well-roasted green chile, but perhaps the most versatile use is to turn it into sauce. You can use it in enchiladas, tacos, burritos, over eggs, in pork stew, with chips, and in salsa. Green chile freezes beautifully. It’s high in vitamin C and is a wondrous thing to pull out of your freezer in winter

Here’s my secret recipe for green chile sauce which was shared with me by my good friend Ruth, an excellent cook, from Gallup, N.M. Her secret? “It’s a little bit by guess and by gosh.” It’s simple and easy. Enjoy it and don’t keep it a secret.

Ruth likes to serves her green chile ladled over one or two poached eggs on top of slabs of homemade toasted bread and topped with grated cheese. It makes an easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I’ve eaten it many times at her table and I can assure you, it’s fantastic.


NOTE: Ruth has one inviolable rule when it comes to making chile: When thickening, use flour for red and cornstarch for green.

10-12 roasted, peeled, and chopped green chile or 16 oz. frozen (Remove seeds for less heat.)

8 oz. water, approximate

½ onion, thickly sliced

1-2 fresh tomatoes (optional)

Salt to taste

1 tsp each oregano and cumin

1-2 cloves of garlic (optional)

COMBINE ALL: and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Blend coarsely.

MIX: 2 T cornstarch together with a little water (a little thicker than gravy).

STIR: cornstarch mixture in with blended chile.

SIMMER: until thickened.

TASTE AND ADJUST seasonings: Add more water if too thick, more cornstarch if too thin.

Note: Market Manager Theresa Titone wants to remind the community that there is still availability in August and September at the Community Booth. This is a rent-free, shaded space at the market for any non-profit that wants to disseminate information about their organization. No partisan politics please.