Every year around mid September, New Mexico is awash in different shapes of chile ristras. If you find a ristra in the shape of a heart, wreath, cross, or something else, it’s probably made with pequin chile.
The reason why, is because it is smaller, and therefore less fragile. In general, most people just use these ristras for decoration. Like other ristras, the original intention is a way to dry chiles without letting birds eat them.
The flavor of pequin chile is somewhat fruity, with a slightly nutty aftertaste. The spice is a lot more than a Hatch chile however, so be careful when eating them. The spice level is more in line with Thai chilies or cayenne peppers.
You might be wondering a good way to use them. As they are small, cutting them individually is not very convenient. Blending some into a sauce is a great way to add some spice. You can also make a decent DIY tabasco style sauce by blending them with vinegar and a little salt.
There are a lot of uses for this kind of hot sauce, and you can mix whatever you want with it.
This season, remember, chile ristras aren’t just decoration. Make something tasty with them too.