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Sometimes when Arnold McMillan went to Hatch to buy and roast his green chile, some 35 years back, there would be red chile pods caught up in the green ones and he would just roast those too. Then he found the flavor improved.
“I liked it so much, I started roasting red and green chile, a bag of each,” he said. “I found out I like the red roasting. Not many people were roasting red, and I started blending it together to make a salsa.”
McMillan also started using the red to make enchilada sauce, because he found making it from fresh red chile, never dried, created a pure chile deliciousness. The red sauce is bright red, sweeter tasting than when made with dried pods. And, he said, it won’t cause heart burn.
“We took the stems and the seeds out, then boiled it and ran it though a colander and a blender and made red sauce,” he said. “We put it in the freezer.”
Soon, the family was creating both fresh red sauce and a red/green chile blend.
Arnold’s son Randy, a real estate broker, and his wife, Carol, started making the red sauce and jarring it to send to customers every Christmas. The whole family was involved for those Christmas canning sessions, their children stirring of fresh, red enchilada sauce. When the production outgrew the home kitchen, they rented the Gospel Rescue Mission’s kitchen.
“Five or six years ago, we made 800 jars and shipped those to our real estate customers all over the country,” Randy said. “They liked it so much, they would call and ask for a case. So, we started a little business.”
Tthe Fresh Chile Company has gone from producing about 10,000 jars a year to close to half a million in the space of five years. Randy, in part, credits the pandemic shutdown for increased sales. They have also added quite a few choices to their catalog of products.
“Our sales have gone four times what they were in the last three months. It was an immediate reaction,” he said. “The shutdown seemed to push people home, and they are eating at home. A lot more people are on their computers and have more time on their hands and started ordering chile. And when they got the chile, they liked it, and then they ordered it again.
“But everyone is going back to work now, and I don’t see it going back down. So, it’s probably going to be sustainable as long as we can produce enough product.”
Randy credits business partner Chris Lang with the increase in sales. Lang is already well known in the community as the owner of Organ Mountain Outfitters.
“The reason we went to half a million is Chris,” Randy said. “His expertise is Internet marketing. He has done the Internet marketing for many local companies.”
Fresh Chile Company’s website is augmented by social media presences on Instagram and a popular Facebook page, where a recipe-sharing group hosts weekly contests. The recipe group, Fresh Chile Co. Cookin!, has almost 9,000 members and gives out a shopped box of products once a week to the best recipe submitted. The Facebook page boast 46,000 followers.
Among many other plans, Fresh Chile Co. will be putting out a recipe book soon. Many of those recipes are family favorites created by Carol. Some of them can be found on the website.
The company expanded into the old Pro’s Ranch Market on Wyatt Street and keep working on new products to sell. From the original fresh red enchilada sauce and red/green roasted chile mix, they have added a pure green chile, a traditional dried red chile sauce, red and green chile powders, a posole seasoning and many other products. Of course, all the chile products come in a variety of heats, as well.
Their newest creation, Papa’s Salsa, was introduced last week. Mama’s Salsa will come out soon. The difference is the first is chunky and the second is smooth.
“Dad (Arnold) come out with the original recipe for the original fresh red sauce, and from there, now he’s come up with a recipe for a salsa, its Papa’s Salsa,” Carol said.
What’s next? Barbeque sauces, one sweet and one savory.
“We worked with a local barbeque restaurant chef,” Randy said. “We gave him our chile, and he has come up with an amazing barbeque sauce. The base is our fresh red chile that dad started making years ago.”
Fresh Chile Co. products can be found at locations around Las Cruces, including Toucan’s, Natural Grocers and a couple of wineries and specialty stores, Randy said. El Sombrero has the fresh red sauce available for special order, and Ice Box uses the sauce as marinara on pizzas.
“But really, 95 percent of our sales are on the internet,” he said. “Every day we ship out 300 boxes. They go everywhere – Alaska, California, Montana, across the United States.”
And it doesn’t end there. The company has acquired a restaurant in Mesilla, which will become a showcase for its products, as well as the products of the McMillans’ vineyard, Mesilla Vineyard Estates, where they intend to begin producing wine.
“At the restaurant, we will have wine tasting and showcase the chile,” Randy said. “We want to ship out a lot of wine when we do the chile. The customers are really interested in the wine.”
What makes Fresh Chile Co. products the best?
“The difference is we are the highest quality,” Lang said. “Randy and I will be in Hatch, We’ll make sure the chile gets to the roaster, and we’ll cook and bottle it the next day. It’s our standard of excellence.”
“Picked today, brought here tomorrow and canned the next day,” Randy added. “I don’t know of anybody who makes the enchilada sauce with the fresh red chile. It’s a very short window that you can do it. We’ll get starting in late August and be done by Oct. 1. We have to make all of our red chile for the year during that time.”