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Late Summer Means...Hatch Chilies!

By Anna Madrona, September 10, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Anna Madrona
The roaster is turning ‘round and ‘round and the Hatch chilies go up and down. Standing in front of the drum roaster, with its dragon's breath bursts of propane and flame, I'm almost mesmerized by the rhythmic movement of the darkening chili pods as they drop damply to the bottom and slowly spin back to the top of the drum. These aren't just any vegetables, as those of you who chase the ephemeral Hatch chili know. The meaty chili pods, about the size of a child's slipper, provide a tantalizing hint of fire and satisfying substance for New Mexican cookery for a few brief weeks at the end of summer. Harvested in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico for a few weeks of the late summer, Hatch chilies are a cultivar of the common New Mexico green chili developed at the Chile Institute at New Mexico State University in the 1920s. The Mesilla Valley runs from Las Cruces north to Hatch, nearly forty miles, in the south central part of the state. The Hatch Chile Festival occurs annually each Labor Day weekend and draws up to 30,000 people from around the world to the tiny town of less than 2,000 residents. Grown nowhere else in the world, the large, almost leathery chilies feature a vigorous, earthy flavor unlike any other chili. Although there are several varieties grown, the types found in Central Texas, where I shop, are typically the milder "A-8" and the fierier "Big Jim." If you are tentative about trying a new chili, let me assure you that these are closer to "tingle on your tongue" than "tears in your ears." The Scoville heat rating for a typical Hatch chili is no more than 2,500, and often closer to 1,000, while a jalapeño (the state appetizer of Texas) hovers around 5,000, and a habanero pepper can top 250,000. What's the Scoville heat rating, you ask? This system measures the piquancy (or heat) of a chili by referencing the amount of capsaicin (a chemical compound that stimulates receptor nerve endings in human skin and mucous membranes) contained within. The Scoville heat units (often referred to as SHU) indicate the amount of capsaicin present in a typical pepper pod. Sorry. My inner science nerd bubbled up in between stuffing blue corn tortilla chips and Hatch chili salsa in my mouth. Yum. What else can you do with the fabulous pods?  What about Hatch Green Chili Stew? I make mine with a combination of roasted and unroasted Hatch chilies. To roast them at home, I place the chilies on a meat fork and rotate them slowly over a gas burner until they start to pop, let them cool on a metal rack or paper towel, then peel the tougher outer skin. I throw garlic and onions into a cast iron kettle, braise any meat or tofu I intend to add, then add plenty of chopped Hatch chilies (at least six), along with a chopped potato, cilantro, cumin, black pepper, four cups to six cups of stock, and eventually, a chopped tomato or two. Tomatillos are great if you have any on hand, and canned tomatoes can also be used. For another fun dot of color, I sometimes add chunks of butternut squash. Like the potato, the squash helps to even out the fire of the hotter chilies, while it absorbs the melded flavors in the stew. As ever, the fragrant, slightly spicy meal is better the next day. I also chop the chilies and add to the center of turkey, buffalo, or grass-fed beef patties that I form myself and freeze for later single serve meals. Hatch chilies can take the place of just about any pepper you might use in stir fries or garnishes. Even though I'm crazy about yellow crook-necked squash fried quickly in olive oil with garlic and onions, with lots of fresh ground black pepper on top in early July when the squash starts coming on, by late summer I'm no longer so enchanted with the same old, same old. Chopping up a hatch chili and sweet potato to add to the mix adds sweet and spicy body and interest to a dish now more suited to the approach of autumn. But remember, you only have a few weeks to enjoy Hatch chilies at their peak, and the season is quickly coming to a close. If you can't find them, make a note to look for them next August. Your taste buds will thank you. If you can still find any, make sure you procure enough to freeze, well-protected, for later in the year when your appetite needs a spicy nudge. Then, like a postcard from late August, the chilies will take your taste buds back to summer's last hurrah. Note: Hatch chilies are not available in all stores, and fresh Hatch chilies have a very limited season. Check with your local produce team to find out more.
Category: Food & Recipes

 

24 Comments

Comments

Bob says ...
I think you need to recheck your facts on "typical" hatch green chile. While the Big Jims and the NM 6-4 tend to be milder and therefore more likely to hit the shelves in Texas and othere states, the ones that you see cross the plates of most NM green chiles lovers will be the Sandias and the Lumbres which are much hotter and put Jalepenos to shame!
09/24/2008 3:42:47 PM CDT
Janalee says ...
How do you freeze Hatch Chilies?
09/10/2008 10:49:27 PM CDT
Linda says ...
Are Hatch chilis found at Whole Foods in Toronto? If so, when, and for how long, please. Yum. Linda
09/10/2008 1:38:46 PM CDT
winsox says ...
When Freezing do you need to peel the chilies 1st? CAn I you roast them then freeze w/o peeling?
09/14/2008 5:28:54 PM CDT
natalie says ...
Way to make me homesick!! Can i get the frozen autumn roast at Whole Foods in Portland?
09/10/2008 5:16:40 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Janalee I've had success freezing them after roasting and peeling. I usually roast on a naked flame on my stove top, put them in a paper bag, peel them, seal them up in airtight bags with a food sealer and throw them in my freezer.
09/11/2008 10:08:33 AM CDT
paige says ...
when will the toronto, ontario location start carrying frozen hatch green chili?
05/05/2009 2:06:37 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@paige Hatch chiles come into season in mid-late summer, so we're still a few months off!
05/05/2009 2:50:09 PM CDT
Sheril says ...
Thank you Anna, I bought these yummy Hatch Green Chillies at our Colorado Whole Foods yesterday and looked up recipes on the web right away. Most of them were completely laden with saturated fat. Your blog gave me a variety of ideas to use these in recipes without the saturated fat. Very useful!
08/24/2009 9:35:45 AM CDT
Heather says ...
Hi, Do you have any Hatch Chilie recipes you can share? I bought two pounds and am eager to try them out! Thanks
09/04/2009 6:08:19 PM CDT
Shawna Larsh says ...
Hello, I am inquiring about "Hatch Green Chilies". I was born In New Mexico, and lived in Colorado all my life. I always purchased a bushel of Hatch Green Chilies roasted every year. I also peeled and froze them to have all year long. I have recently moved to Minnesota. I cannot find my Hatch Greeen Chilies! I am so sad. I have gone 2 years without the chilies (other than the tiny little cans of ortega diced green chilies) it takes about 20 cans to make a batch of chilie. OK now my point of this story is... When and where can I get the Green Chilies that I love so much? Please help me , I really need my green chilies. Its been like torture to be with out all my foods smothered in "Hatch Green Chilies" I would be very greatful for the information that I am requesting.
06/07/2010 5:59:15 PM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Shawna We love Hatch chilies too! Since the demand for these varies by region, your best bet is to check with your local store to request them. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/all/index.php
06/08/2010 9:49:41 AM CDT
Danielle says ...
This is my first summer in TX and my first experience with fresh Hatch chilies. Maybe it's because I'm a Northerner, but I agree with Bob below: these chilies are hot. I popped some innocently into my mouth the other day and I'm still regretting it. They are delicious but I learned my lesson the hard way!
08/19/2010 7:53:17 PM CDT
Mary Pat says ...
Is it possible to get green chilis, frozen, canned or dried, in the Chicago area stores? Thanks
09/09/2010 5:30:37 PM CDT
paig292 says ...
@Mary Pat Since our product mix varies by stores and region, it's really best for you to check with your local store directly. I wouldn't want to steer you wrong!
09/10/2010 8:09:18 AM CDT
richard says ...
Man these chiles are off the scale, by far my favorite. I used to live in New Mexico and use to get them in everything and now that I am in Texas, we only get them at the summer time. We use to go out on Saturday night after work and these chiles have cured my hangover for 3 years while i lived there. We used to get ranchero eggs smothered in green chiles and just sweat the alcohol out of our systems right on the table itself. Man these chiles are excellent source for drinkers. Thank you so much for still delivering them out here.
07/02/2011 2:02:50 PM CDT
Linda says ...
can we get frozen autumn roastd hatch chiles at whole foods in portland ?
01/03/2012 6:35:51 PM CST
janejohnson says ...
@Linda Since each store sources their products a little differently, the best way to get the most accurate information regarding the availability of Hatch chilies is to reach out to the Portland store directly. The link below will help you identify the contact information for your local Whole Foods Market. There are many stores in Portland so I didn't want to send you the incorrect information. If you reach out to a Team Member at your location they'll be happy to discuss the availability of this product. Happy hunting! http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/
01/04/2012 1:32:09 PM CST
Francis Trujillo says ...
Thanks. I will inquire at local store in Lynnwood, WA. I miss the Hatch Sandia Chiles.
06/13/2012 6:51:22 PM CDT
Craig Strid says ...
Gloria Chadwich just came out with a cookbook devoted to the Hatch Chile. Its titled "Hatch Chile Heaven" and it has approx 300 recipes from appetizers, main courses and deserts. It was just released this month. I have her Tastes and Flavors of San Antonio and I love it. It definitely my to when stumped.
06/22/2012 5:33:38 AM CDT
Bob says ...
Am I reading this correctly? Y'all will be roasting Hatch Green Chile in e.g. Andover, MA? Not sure what to do with your roasted sack? If it's in a plastic bag, let it "stew" a couple of hours to soften the skin for peeling as well as cool. Gather friends/familia on the patio with some margaritas or cerveza/chips n salsa/queso/ranchera musica (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/3jn4p7x) to sit around a covered table to peel. (Wimps wear surgical gloves; Manos dip fingers in vinegar periodically, otherwise your fingers will 'burn' for days - heads up: wash hands BEFORE using the john; never rub eyes!!!. Simply peel off the outer skin; take off the stem-top; leave the seeds with that 'inner meat" for their "heat". Half fill a qt. size baggie for flat storage in the freezer for your year long stash. Here's an unknown dude showing this complex process http://tinyurl.com/8egvws8 Simplest use: Thaw; dice/chop; accessorize whatever you eat...e.g. make a great Green Chile Cheeseburger http://www.newmexico.org/culinary/. Here's my personal favorite recipe I've listed on the Yankee Magazine website http://tinyurl.com/3oh5uu9 (The best green chile not only has 'heat', but a unique taste as well.) Salud! Na Zdrowie! Slainte! A transplanted Lowellian
08/25/2012 12:22:05 PM CDT
Rick Michaelis says ...
Wow! Really? I get 25 pounds sent up from New Mexico every year. I roast them on the BBQ grill, sweat them out in a plastic bag for about 4 hours and then split them up into sandwhich bags and freeze. This is great that I can purchase have them roasted at my local store. Thanks...
08/29/2012 10:49:27 AM CDT
michele moore says ...
will there be a hatch chile event in Bend..or only Redmond?
07/01/2014 10:48:34 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MICHELE - Our events will differ between locations. I wasn't able to find anything on the Bend store event calendar but I would suggest calling them at 541.389.0151 to find out what they have planned!
07/02/2014 11:59:03 AM CDT