We seek out small town festivals, as they remind us of county fairs and fests from our childhoods, with their sweetness and traditions. The Sutherland Farms Green Chile Festival in Aztec, New Mexico is a community gathering place. A family owned working produce farm, located in the very top western part of New Mexico about ten minutes from the Colorado border, it was everything we imagined a small, charming Southwest country festival to be.
(This #TBT re-post is from March of 2014, for current festival dates: Sutherlands)
We find September/November and May/June to be the most pleasant months to drive in the Southwest with all the windows down and the sunroof open. This trip was one of those big blue sky days and the staggeringly high temperatures from August were cooling into the low 80s to high 70s (F).
Just as Mr.D and I reached the farm our car was filled with that unmistakable robust roasted green chile aroma, a sure indicator that this was going to be a great discovery.
Trying not to use the word ‘cute’ too much … Families were taking hayrides, people pulled carts with fresh treasures from the adorable produce market, a tractor ride rumbled by, little kids flocked to the petting zoo to see the baby donkey and goats. The Purple Cow Kafe served flame broiled green chile cheeseburgers, fresh grilled corn on the cob, tangy bbq pulled pork sandwiches, Sutherland’s brisket rueben, green chile wraps, just a few favorites from their country style gourmet menu. No processed foods, no cheap fried fare. We are are so sorry to say that after that big flavorful chile packed burger we were too full to try the green chile cheesecake with green chile topping, and too anxious to begin shopping in the market to think of ordering one to-go.
Around 12:30 the breeze mellowed and a little heat wave sent people under umbrellas and into the covered picnic area to finish their lunches. Well … all but the guys with proper cowboy hats. Then the breeze picked up, a terrific local band called Royal Flush began to play and the hay bale area was swarmed with foot stomping families and dancing couples.
We shopped in the market for two hours, it was one “have got to try this” moment after another. Pepper jellies, bags of dried chile powder, pickled jalapenos, sweet fire butter pickles, green chile potato chips, green chile peanut brittle, dried beans, fresh produce, habanero chunk pickles. Have a peek at their seasonal produce list here.
The chiles were literally fresh picked. All day long, pickers brought them in buckets from the fields. Mild, medium or hot. The roasting team told us they had done 300 bushels that Saturday, and by mid-Sunday were up to 200. Our order was loaded into a huge rolling drum that flame charred them for 7 to 10 minutes, then they were sealed in plastic bags to let them steam.
Sutherland also had hundreds of red pepper ristras. When green chiles mature they turn orange and this beautiful vibrant red. Tied into ristras, they dry and are used to make red chile sauces and salsas. People in the Southwest use them for cooking and also decoration, especially at Christmastime. Displayed in doorways, hanging on porches, in restaurants … beautiful.
We put our two bags of precious green cargo in the back seat of the car, best air freshener scent ever. Do they make green chile car fresheners? We’d buy them in a heartbeat! As soon as we got home we poured them onto the cutting board, thankfully they were still piping hot and scented every room in the house. After an hour or so we divided them into plastic baggies, skin on to hold in that charred flavor. Filled half of the freezer, then got that comforting calm feeling like when all of the logs are split and stacked for winter.
In mid-August chile season will be here again. We’ll stop at one of the bazillion roadside stands that pop up all over the place, at farmer’s markets, any local grocery store — almost all will have chile roasting drums. And then back to Sutherland Farms. First on the list, that green chile cheesecake!
Amy & Mr.D