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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> life along the Rio Grande

 

As three-year-olds go, the Disc-It Round Up is pretty developed and well-behaved. It’s an event the folks at Disc-It started in 2009 as their way of giving back to New Mexico's UNM Children’s Hospital for all the care that Disc-It front man Nevin Montano’s daughter and nephew received in the past. Round Up year one saw 350 attendees; that number ballooned to 2500 people for 2010. This time, an estimated 5000-7000 people showed up at the Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque on July 16th looking to sample a wide range of Disc-It grilled creations.


Find out who won and check out some killer recipes from the Round Up on the Burn! Blog here.


 

Laser-Leveling for an Alfalfa Field You are looking at a rare occurence in central New Mexico: vacant land being laser-leveled to make an alfalfa field rather than a housing development.  This field is less than a mile from our house, so we will have something green to look it rather than the little boxes Pete Seeger used to sing about.  The vertical laser unit on the leveler pulled by the tractor connects with a central transmitter in the middle of the field, giving the tractor operator continuous information about where to move the soil.  When finished, the leveling assures that irrigation water will flow properly and drain off without leaving low, wet spots where alfalfa won't grow.  Alfalfa is New Mexico's number one agricultural crop.

 


Chile Harvesting, Mesilla Valley, New MexicoWhen the media get wind of a typical change in the ever-fluctuating world of economic agriculture, they just have to turn it into a crisis. Take the drop in harvested chile acreage over the last decade or so—down to 8,700 acres from a high of 29,000. Is this a "crisis" or merely a reflection of economic reality? I think the latter. Chiles compete against other crops that are often more profitable to grow: pecans, cotton, and even onions. Also contributing are the loss of agricultural land to development, cheaper imports from Mexico, and the necessity to use human labor to harvest green chile. (Red chile can be mechanically harvested, but not green...yet.)

Kraig Kraft, coauthor of a new book, Chasing Chiles, wrote an op-ed piece the the Albuquerque Journal (5-15-11) in which part of the headline refers to "fake N.M. chiles," a reference to chiles from Mexico that are imported for processing in southern New Mexico because local growers can't keep up with demand due to the competition from other crops. But ignored in this discussion is the fact that these are New Mexico varieties like 'NuMex 6-4 Heritage', developed by Dr. Paul Bosland's chile breeding team, and the seeds provided to Mexican growers. If you really, really want your chile, does it really matter if it is grown in the Mesilla Valley or 100 miles south of there in Chihuahua?  I don't think so.


The real problems lie below the surface of the hype and screaming of "fake chiles."  Here they are:

1.  The real fake chiles are "Hatch chiles."  There is no such thing.  "Hatch chiles" are a complete fabrication.  There is no such variety.  Hatch farmers devote most of their fields to alfalfa, and cannot possibly grow all the chiles labeled with the name of that tiny town.

2. New Mexican varieties are only part of the crop processed in southern New Mexico.  Even more important are the cayennes, paprika (non-pungent red chiles, by definition), and jalapeños.

3.  The New Mexico chiles deserving what Kraft calls "geographic indicators" (similar to Idaho potatoes and Florida oranges) are the endangered heirloom or land race chiles of northern New Mexico, like 'Chimayo'.

The recently-passed New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which supposedly prohibits the advertising of chiles listed as New Mexican but not grown in the state, is a joke.  It is totally unenforceable, which renders it useless, and is another attempt by politicians to place a "legal fix" upon what is really just an economic fact of life brought on by changing times, NAFTA, and the ability of farmers in other countries to grow New Mexican varieties to meet the demand here.


Bedding Plants from Cross Country NurseriesHere's what my superhot chiles ('Trinidad Scorpion' and '7Pot') look like after they arrived from Cross Country (chileplants.com).  They are healthy and vigorous, and are now hardening off under the semi-shade of my potted Meyer lemon plant (which already has small lemons on it).  I've been doing business with Cross Country for a decade, and they never disappoint me with their 500 chile varieties and 275 tomato varieties.  There's only a couple of weeks left to order yours!


Charleston Pepper SunIn an article posted on The Atlantic’s website last week, Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, addressed the relationship between farming in the Southwest and climate change—both food production and food security have been cast into question with the growing scarcity of water and unpredictable growing seasons and weather patterns, such as drought.

Nabhan points out that with water capacity near its limit for cities and rural agricultural areas, “food security in the Southwest depends upon the security of water supplies being delivered to irrigable land. That capacity, we can now see, has been severely impaired by urban growth in the Sunbelt since World War II, and is likely to be further impacted by the vagaries of weather shifts.”

The burden of addressing such trends, says Nabhan, falls on both the consumer and farmer, and while individual responses may not be enough to reverse the trends. Sustainable agriculture and good farming practices may be the best way to counter the growing threat of food security in the region.

In Chasing Chiles, Nabhan, along with co-authors Kurt Michael Friese and Kraig Kraft, set out to discover the history and potential of America’s heirloom chile varieties. Their journey reveals the chile pepper’s dynamic role in understanding climate change and the future of food production.

So how can food producers and eaters in the Southwest improve their “foodprints?”

“Eat and farm as if the earth matters, as we should have been doing all along,” says Nabhan in Chasing Chiles. “Regardless of how quickly we can implement the specific fixes proposed to mitigate climate change, we all need to reduce our carbon [footprint] and adapt to change in ways that keep the earth’s bounty as diverse, as delicious, and as resilient as possible.”

As an orchard keeper and chile grower, Nabhan has committed to do his share to curve the growing trend of climate change by conserving water between rainfalls, growing regional-appropriate crops, such as drought and heat-tolerant heirlooms, and soil-building.

For the rest of us, Nabhan, Friese, and Kraft have these suggestions in Chasing Chiles:

  1. Explore, celebrate, and consume what diversity can be found locally.
  2. Farmers’ knowledge and problem-solving skills are assets for coping with and adapting to climate change.
  3. Eaters (chefs and consumers) need to vote with their forks, wallets, and ballots in support of more diverse and regionally self-sufficient food systems.
  4. Climate change is best dealt with as one of many compounding factors, not as an environmental impact apart from all others.
  5. Empower local food communities to be “co-designers” of local solutions to global change, and then to creatively transmit their solutions to other communities.

If nothing else, says Nabhan, “I get down on my knees and put my hands into the earth.”

Read more about the history of chiles in America, and their tenuous relationship with biodiversity and climate change in Chasing Chiles, available at Amazon. Click here to read the full article from The Atlantic.


Sources:

“Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe,” by Gary Paul Nabhan, www.TheAtlantic.com

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft & Gary Paul Nabhan, © 2011 Chelsea Green Publishing


 

 

Our 23rd annual show was jammed with people and happy exhibitors.  We will release attendance figures as soon as we get the final count from Ticketmaster, but all initial indicators predict another record crowd.  Additionally, there were a few other accomplishments:

  • The launch of Burn! digital monthly magazine, here.
  • The popularity of El Pinto's new Scorpion Salsa, here.
  • The live broadcast of the show from Eat More Heat, with more than 40,000 viewers, here.

From the producers of the show, we thank everyone responsible for making the show a huge success: exhibitors, attendees, the general public, and the media.


Dave with Flaming HabaneroThe 23rd annual show, beloved by foodies in the Southwest and elsewhere, takes place at the lovely Sandia Resort and Casino at the Tramway exit of I-25 north of Albuquerque.  For the fifth year in a row, the show is sold out of exhibitor space.  This year, we have a record number of trade buyers attending, and will feature the following highlights.

 

 


Burn! Masthead


The launch of Burn! digital monthly magazine.
  Get your free first copy at the Burn! booth, number 417.

Disc-It UnitThe Great Disc-It Giveaway.  Nevin of Disc-It made 3 fiery foods themed Disc-Its, and you can register at their booths, 107 & 109.

Pace LogoThe Pace Chef's Challenge, featuring three Albuquerque chefs vying for the "best dish made with a Pace brand of salsa."  It happens at 2 pm each day in the rotunda area at the east end of the main lobby.



Eat More Heat LogoEat More Heat Live.  Broadcasting live from the show on Stickam.com during show hours Saturday and Sunday.  Next the the El Pinto booth in the main lobby.

1001 CoverBook Signings.
  I'll be signing copies of my three latest books in the Rio Grande Books booth (315), each day at 3pm.

The doors open to the general public at 4 pm Friday.  See you at the show!  Complete show information is here.


LabelFor the fifth year in a row, the 23rd annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show is sold out of exhibitor space!  Thanks to all of our loyal customers and the new exhibitors as well.  Join us March 4-6 for the show at Sandia Resort and Casino.  The bravest of spice fanatics will also have the opportunity to sample El Pinto Scorpion Salsa, a product made with the new hottest chile pepper in the world, the New Mexico Scorpion. The New Mexico Scorpion measures 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) according to tests conducted by a third-party laboratory and is currently under consideration by Guinness World Records™ for the “World’s Hottest Chili” record. Myself,  Marlin Bensinger, Chemical Engineer; and Jim Duffy, grower, are pursuing the record.

 

Other exciting happenings at the show include a daily Disc-It grill raffle giveaway. The Disc-It, customized for the Fiery Foods Show with a chile pattern and inscription, has a unique wok shape that makes it ideal for outdoor cooking and grilling. Disc-It’s are manufactured locally in northwest Albuquerque. The show will also be streamed live for the first time ever on Saturday and Sunday. The live stream can be viewed at www.stickam.com during public show hours on March 5 and 6.  More show details are here.

Scorpion bedding plants are available from ChilePlants.com, here.  Seeds are available in the Store at Refining Fire Chiles, here.


The Soil TriangleWe chile gardeners are getting twitchy. We look at our garden plots, many of which are buried in snow, and we yearn for the growing season. Okay, guys and gals, buck up! You can, indeed, take some action in the "off" season. Here's a quick checklist:


1. Plan your 2011 garden. Select varieties and buy seeds or place your bedding plant order with ChilePlants.com. Decide what companion plants you want to grow. I grow tomatoes, eggplants, colored bell peppers, and lots and lots of herbs. I do not recommend growing potatoes, onions, or corn and I don't even grow New Mexican varieties—saving room for more exotic ones because I know Sichler Farms will supply me with my fresh green and red fixes.

2. Clean up your garden plot(s), removing all dead material to the compost pile. It's okay to add organic material at this time if your ground is not frozen. I recommend aged and sterilized steer manure combined with organic material from your compost pile before you add more non-composted material to it.

3. Plan your garden out for maximum access for harvesting, weeding (for shame—use plastic mulch to eliminate them), and for the viewing pleasure of your envious friends. Tall plants like tomatoes in the background, smaller plants in the foreground.

4. For varieties with long growing seasons, like the Chinense species, you can start seeds now if you have a greenhouse or a sunroom free from cats, who like to graze on the seedlings. Remember to pinch back the seedlings if they get leggy.

5.  Read Paul Bosland's and my three articles, "Preparing the Pepper Garden," here.


Be the Perfect Jerk

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

North Coast Jerk PorkTrying to recreate favorite dishes from distant lands can be daunting, but I discovered this past weekend that there is one word to keep in mind while trying it: scratch.  That's right, forget about prepared (commercial) spice mixes, marinades, and sauces, and make the seasonings from scratch.  Take jerk pork, for example.  I totally fell in love with jerk pork as the Jamaicans make it, highly spiced and smoke-grilled.  But I have been unable to re-create it with prepared jerk seasonings.  So I went back to my recipe files and found a recipe that I collected in Ocho Rios, and gave it a try.  At first, while marinating, the mixture looked way too herbal and green to do the job, but once the pork started browning on the grill, it looked right. Damn near perfect, and I'm breaking my own arm patting myself on the back.  Take a look at the shot above, right off the grill.  Not exactly a perfectly-styled photo shoot, but hey, it's a snapshot straight from the grill.  And amazingly delicious.  Here is the recipe I used, and I marinated "country-style" pork ribs in it for six hours, and then slowly smoke-grilled them over low heat.  See you in Jamaica, mon!

North Coast Jerk Marinade

Variations on Jamaican jerk sauces and marinades range from the early, simple pastes of three or four ingredients to the more modern and rather complicated concotions with as many twenty-one spices, herbs, and vegetables. By varying the amount of vegetable oil and lime juice added, the cook can change the consistency from a paste to a sauce. Traditionally, it is used with pork, chicken, or fish.

1/4 cup whole Jamaican pimento berries (or 1/8 cup ground allspice)
3 Scotch bonnet chiles (or habaneros), seeds and stems removed, chopped
10 scallions (green onions), chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves, crushed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lime juice
Water

Roast the pimento berries in a dry skillet until they are aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove and crush them to a powder in a mortar or spice mill.

Add the pimento powder and the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blend with enough water to make a paste or sauce. Remove and store in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for a month or more.

Yield: 2 to 3 cups
Heat Scale: Hot


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