In New Mexico, A Brittle Treat That Smolders

Play associated audio

New Mexicans can get a little carried away with their chili peppers. There's chili beer, chili pizza, chili ice cream — you can find the smoldering flavors of chili peppers in just about anything.

And then there's chili brittle. Luis Flores, owner of chili brittle purveyor Las Cruces Candy Company, beats the summer heat by getting up at 3 a.m. to prepare his specialties.

His company makes a dozen different types of brittle, studded with pecans, peanuts, pistachios and the less familiar pinon nut. Today, Flores is making his Green Chile Pecan Brittle.

He hunches over a large copper kettle, stirring a gooey mixture of sugar and water until the goop reaches a steamy 280 degrees. Then, Flores adds the most important ingredient: green chili powder from New Mexico's famous pepper fields.

It drops into the kettle in a cloud of dust. Even the "mild" powder can leave you coughing if you're not prepared.

Another New Mexico staple crop, pecans, follow the green chili into the pot. When the mixture is complete, Flores pours it onto an 8-foot stainless steel table and stretches it thin.

When it cools and hardens, the brittle resembles a giant continent. Flores breaks it up into little tectonic plates.

"Nowadays, you can make peanut brittle in a microwave," Flores says. "This is the old-fashioned method of making the product."

Just like his parents used to make, Flores adds.

"My father had started as a young boy working with a candy maker in Mexico when he was 8 or 9 years old," he says.

Today, Flores sells his candy to gift shops across the Southwest. He's also a regular at the farmer's market in his hometown of Las Cruces.

On a sunny Saturday, tourist Mike Gardener of Los Angeles stopped by Flores' table for a taste. It's sweet at first ... but seconds later, the chili sneaks up and delivers a sharp punch to the tongue.

"Oh yeah, it's a good kick," Gardener says. "Yeah — it's the after-burn."

New Mexico's long green chili pepper is so beloved that a new state law now protects its authenticity. That means any chili product advertised as New Mexican better be the real deal.

And if all this chili talk has got your mouth watering, you're in luck — if you can get to New Mexico. The first chili harvests of the year are just getting started.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Credibility Concerns Overshadow Release Of Gay Talese's New Book

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with Paul Farhi of the Washington Post about Gay Talese's new book, The Voyeur's Hotel. The credibility of the book, which follows a self-proclaimed sex researcher who bought a hotel to spy on his guests through ventilator windows, has been called into question after Farhi uncovered problems with Talese's story.
NPR

Amid Craft Brewery Boom, Some Worry About A Bubble — But Most Just Fear Foam

Fueled by customers' unquenchable thirst for the next great flavor note, the craft beer industry has exploded like a poorly fermented bottle of home brew.
NPR

White House Documents Number Of Civilians Killed In U.S. Drone Strikes

The Obama administration issued a long awaited report Friday, documenting the number on civilians who have been accidentally killed by U.S. drone strikes. Human rights activists welcome the administration's newfound transparency, though some question whether the report goes far enough.
NPR

Tesla 'Autopilot' Crash Raises Concerns About Self-Driving Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla car using the "autopilot" feature. NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Alex Davies of Wired about the crash and what it means for self-driving car technology.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.