Orange County gets in on the Hatch Chile season – Orange County Register

Is it hot enough for you?

No, not the temperature. It’s Hatch Chile season, so we’re not talking heat – we’re talking HEAT!

“Chiles are a huge trend in the U.S.,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Melissa’s/World Variety Produce. “They’ve been viewed as something you eat for heat, but try them for the flavor.”

What makes Hatch Chiles unique is their growing environment.

“Hatch Chiles have a thick meaty flesh because their growing fields in New Mexico are at high elevation – 4,000-foot altitude – where the days are hot, into the 100s, and the nights are cool, into the 60s, which creates a thicker chile.”

These prized chiles are available for only a few weeks between August and September. Locally you may find them at Mother’s Market and Sprouts, but you’d better hurry, because they go fast.

“People buy cases of them and store them in the freezer to have throughout the rest of the year,” Schueller said. “In fact, it is the only chile that can be frozen and that will still keep its integrity for two years. Simply roast them, place them in a single layer in a resealable plastic bag, and store them in the freezer.

“When you need them, thaw them out, peel off the charred skin, and enjoy them in your favorite recipes.”

Interestingly, the longer you keep these chiles, the hotter they get. As the moisture evaporates, the flavor becomes concentrated.

Not into hot and spicy? “Hatch Chiles are the only chiles that come in mild, medium, hot and extra-hot.” Schueller noted.

“And you can use Hatch Chiles in everything – Italian, Asian – not just Southwest,” added Chef Ida Rodriguez, co-author with Sharon Hernandez, of “Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook” (World Variety Produce), which can be ordered at melissas.com.

Besides its obvious uses in Mexican dishes, you’ll find dozens of other interesting Hatch-filled recipes for deviled eggs, mac n’ cheese, braised baby back ribs, grilled cheese and even vanilla bean ice cream, deviled food cookies and s’mores.

So popular are these chiles, thousands of people converge on Hatch, New Mexico, for the annual Hatch Chile Festival, attracting more than 30,000 visitors each Labor Day weekend.

“We go to Hatch every year,” Rodriguez said. “You’d think, who’s going to buy a 35-pound case of chiles, but you bring them home, roast them immediately and freeze them, and you can use them all year. The smell in the car coming home is…

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