Pueblo Chilies Add Spice to Local Dishes

The only thing hotter than Pueblo’s kitchens are the chile peppers in the cooking.

Chile peppers are a mascot of sorts in Pueblo. Nestled in the Arkansas River Valley, Pueblo has cool nights, hot days and frigid river water fresh from the Rockies, all of which contribute to the mira sol variety of pepper, affectionately known as the Pueblo chile.

A large, flavorful chile that is thick-skinned and easy to peel, these peppers are addictive! The zing you feel when you bite into a chile actually goes straight to your brain, which releases the natural painkiller endorphin to give the eater that “chile high.”

Locals and visitors feed their addiction every fall during the town’s Loaf ’N Jug Chile & Frijoles Festival, the annual celebration of the array of peppers grown in the area.

Each year the farmers plant nearly 300 acres of chiles and close to 500 acres of frijoles. Farmers like Carl Musso of Musso's Farm sell thousands of bushels of chiles worth tens of thousands of dollars at the fest. Amid pepper-eating contests, cook-offs, craft booths and live music performances, the smell of farmers roasting chiles hangs in the air.

"It's just getting bigger and better every year," said Musso, who owns the oldest and most well-known chile farm in the area.

Hot, medium or mild, Pueblo’s chiles lend a little kick and a hearty flavor when eaten plain, mixed into an entrée or atop a tortilla chip. The "slopper" burgers they contribute to are famous in Pueblo. And if you think there’s a limit to what chiles can do, consider Pueblo’s other concoctions, like green chile jams and jellies, breads, stews, breads—even beer. Whether they're fire roasted, barbecued or baked, Pueblo green chiles kick anything up a notch or two.

Case in point? The Musso Farms pizza at popular local pizzeria Angelo’s, featuring sausage, pepperoni and chiles. “We probably go through about 250 pounds of chiles a week at all three restaurants,” estimates Eric Walker, general manager of the pizza parlors.

Angelo’s began making chili pizzas about six years ago, when creative minds decided to replace ho-hum jalepenos with chiles and see what happened. Now chii pizzas fly out of the ovens. In addition to the Musso Farms pizza, there's also the Western Group pie, which piles on Alfredo sauce, artichoke hearts, chicken and roasted chile peppers.

Walker estimates that combined, the two Angelo’s locations sell 50 to 60 of each pizza a day. “Chile is amazing on the pizzas, especially with the Alfredo sauce,” says Walker. “It’s got that kick to it.”

But don’t take his word for it. Take your own culinary tour around town and see why chiles are such a hot topic among Pueblo’s chefs.

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