Cut pork into ½ in. squares and with the pork bones fry over low heat until brown and the meat is slightly dry. If pork is very fatty, pour off all but 4 or 5 tablespoons of the grease. Using a colander, strain tomatoes into an 8-quart saucepan and coarsely chop tomatoes. Combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, hot water, cooked pork, and bones in the same saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil and continue boiling for 20 minutes. Add spices, chopped hot peppers and chopped chilies (including jalapeño).
Continue boiling for another 20 minutes. Finish by cooking on medium heat until desired thickness, usually about another 20 minutes. Remove bones before serving. Serve in deep bowls with tortilla if desired.
The recipe for green chili comes from the La Bolos restaurant in Denver, CO. My mother gave me the recipe, which she acquired from the restaurant in the 1980’s. She first started going to the restaurant with her best friend Debbee when she was in graduate school.
My mother has always told me that she loved the recipe because even though graduate school was grueling and tiresome, her and Debbee would make time to go to La Bolos. At La Bolos they would wait in line just to get their table in the back then they would both order the smothered bean burrito with their signature green chili. Although eventually my mother and Debbee graduated, my mother got the recipe for green chili and continued to make it on her own.
When my mother first started to make the green chili she followed the recipe to the “t”.
However after decades of taste testing her and I have tweaked the recipe to increase the amount of green chili peppers and jalapeño peppers. We have also replaced the sugar with Splenda in order to cut down calories. My mother started to make green chili for my grandpa when he came to visit her after graduate school and he fell in love with it. Since he enjoyed the chili so much my mother began to make it every time my grandpa visited. It became a tradition that green chili would be made every time grandpa came to visit.
When I was a young girl my grandpa always taught me that the chili wasn’t hot enough if he wasn’t red in the face and sweating; Hence the addition of jalapeños. Usually the dish is served in the mid-afternoon after my grandpa has walked around the house making minor fixes to the various appliances. Everyone sits around the table and has a bowl of green chili while we inquire into my grandpa’s fascinating history.
The main ingredient in the green chili is pork shoulder, which comes from the pig. Pigs originated from the wild boar, Sus scrofa, which originated from the Middle East and the Mediterranean sometime between 7000-5000 BCE. Archaeologists have also found remnants of domesticated pigs in Palestine, Iraq, Turkey, and Greece (Gade). They have also found pigs were the oldest domesticated animal besides dogs. Other archaeologists have found that pigs may have originated in Southeast Asia then migrated to China. Since archaeologists have come to different conclusions as to where the pig originated, it has been suggested that the pig may have domesticated in multiple places. In addition pigs may have made the conscious choice to move to places where were humans present, since pigs could feed off of humans waste (Gade).
Waste was a good source of food for pigs because they are able to eat plants and animals. In the Middle Ages people began to breed and sell pigs as a source of income. Breeding of pigs became more intricate at this time because now there were laws and regulations that needed to be followed in order to be a pig farmer. In the modern world there are still many restrictions on how pigs can be raised and slaughtered for consumption such as how large the living area must be and how many antibiotics can be given to the pigs.
Another key ingredient to the green chili is diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Tomatoes can be dated back to 900 BCE and were originally from the Americas, specifically the Andes region. However due to their distinct smell when on the vine people in the Americas believed that the tomato was poisonous and a part of the nightshade family so people did not use then for food. Instead people used tomato plants as decoration for their gardens, due to their bright green and red colors (Texas A&M). Europeans were the first people to realize that tomatoes were edible and began to spread the knowledge. Italians were the first Europeans to grow tomatoes in the 1550’s and people in Europe soon began to call tomatoes the “love apples” (Texas A&M). In North America the cultivation of tomatoes did not grow to the extent that it did in Europe until Thomas Jefferson included them in his massive garden. Jefferson was known for growing vegetables and taking notes on their growth, which allowed for farmers everywhere to learn when his discoveries became public. Nowadays tomatoes are cultivated all over the world and new varieties are being created and tested.
The most essential ingredients to green chili, in my opinion, are the hot green chili peppers and jalapenos. Chili peppers are thought to have originated in 5000 BC in what is now Mexico. Christopher Columbus is credited for discovering Capsicum, but he incorrectly placed it in the pepper category with black pepper (Food Timeline). Columbus brought the chili pepper to Europe where it quickly spread to India and Asia through various trade routes. Many scholars note that the Portuguese were essential in the spread of the chili pepper throughout these trade routes. However specifics on these trade routes are unknown as they either were not documented or were destroyed over time. Eventually people began to expand upon the use of chilies besides just using them as a spice. Stuffed chilies, stuffed peppers, and beef stewed with chilies became extremely popular in the 19th and 20th centuries and still are today.
The other ingredients in the green chili that really bring it together are sugar, salt, and garlic. Although hardly detectable the chili would not be complete without these three items. Sugar originated in the Indies in 1200 BC and was used by the Egyptians and Phoenicians as a medicine (Food Timeline). However it wasn’t until 1000 BC that Arabs in Crete perfected the refinement of sugar. When explorers came to the New World they realized the potential to mass-produce sugar from the abundant sugar cane in the area. The British colonies became obsessed with production of sugar and devoted the colonies of Barbados and Jamaica to sugar production (Food Timeline). Their investments paid off as sugar continued to sell and be produced in colonies all over the New World. Since this time sugar has become further refined and mass produced in various forms including the highly controversial form of high fructose corn syrup.
Salt has been present on Earth as an essential mineral since the Neolithic age. There are even salt mines in China dating back all the way to 2000 BC. People began to settle in areas where salt mines were and they began to take advantage of the natural habitat and mined the salt out of the earth. In addition to salt mining people boiled off water from salty lakes and springs. In the 4th century it was discovered that iodine deficiency was associated with overactive thyroid and in 1833 the French recommended iodized salt as the solution to overactive thyroid. This recommendation was not present in the United States until the 1920’s.
One of the oldest foods known on the ingredient list for green chili is the garlic. Garlic dates back to 3000 BC and originated from Central Asia (Food Timeline). It was known, and still is, for its medicinal and therapeutic uses. In Ancient Rome and in the Middle Ages garlic was known to be “peasant food” and was not seen as appropriate for people in higher classes. Thankfully by the 19th century people recognized its flavorful value and it become the celebrated ingredient that is today in the modern world.
The ingredients to green chili may all have different origins, but they are all prevalent in modern day Mexico. This chili has a distinctly Mexican flavor to it due to the tomatoes, garlic, and chili peppers. Although my family has no cultural ties to Mexico, my mother living in a predominately Mexican area of Denver allowed for green chili to become one of my families most loved recipes. It has become a dish that will always bring comfort and memories with my grandfather to my family and me.