Not all the peppers are harvested while still green. By the end of August those remaining in the fields have soaked up enough New Mexico sunshine to turn them a deep, earthy red color. Some are picked now, for a variety of fresh red chile recipes. The rest are either left to sun-dry, or picked and dehydrated for further drying. Then they'll be harvested and packaged whole, or ground and packaged in powder form
Fresh red chiles are strung into "ristras", and at this time of year you'll see them hanging nearly anywhere you go in New Mexico. The ristra is not just a decorative item. Hang it in a warm dry place until the pods are dried, and you have the starting point for making the Red Chile used in so many southwestern recipes. If you purchase a dried chile ristra be sure it's edible, as some ristras are coated with shellac and are for decoration only.
Select about a dozen dry pods in good condition and rinse them in warm water. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the pods. Depending on the heat level they can cause discomfort to sensitive skin.
Remove the seeds, stems, and "veins". The heat of a chile resides in the membranes or veins holding the seeds, so if you prefer a hotter chile leave some of membranes and seeds.
Place the cleaned pods in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer covered for at least 10 minutes.
The chile flesh will become plump, red, and softened. If not fully softened replace the cover and steam for afew minutes more until the peppers are soft and pliable.
When cool, taste the chile water. If it's bitter tasting replace it with 2 cups of fresh water. Pour into a blender and blend until a smooth puree is obtained.
Strain the puree, pressing the flesh through the strainer, to remove remaining seeds and bits of chopped skin.
This is the basic Red Chile puree, ready for use in various red chile dishes. The puree can be frozen at this point, or used right away to make enchilada sauces, chile con carne, and many other recipes.