Get out your rubber gloves, it’s time for Hatch chiles! Hatch chile season only comes about in August. The town of Hatch, New Mexico has some special conditions that create these incredible chiles. Either way around it, they are only around for a few weeks, so you have to strike! I found the first bits of this year’s crop at a local grocery store and promptly purchased 4 pounds of peppers. I had the day off and was going to get them “put up” for the remainder of the year. Apparently in the Hatch area, there are regularly guys on roadsides with these big metal roasting rigs that will just sell you boxes of charred hatch chiles. The Whole Foods in our area gets them each year also and will sell you cases of charred chiles also. This is definitely easier and only marginally more expensive, but I don’t mind doing my own, so I got to it.
My method is actually to fill the charcoal chimney for my Weber grill all the way to the top with charcoal, light it, get it nice and hot, and then set my grill grate directly on top of the chimney, and then place my chiles on that. It takes a little while, to do all of them, but the chiles char more evenly and faster than when they’re further from the coals. This can also be done over a gas grill, using a propane torch, or if you’re manly, over a campfire or whatever. Then the chiles get piled up in a container that will assure that they are stacked on top of each other, and covered in plastic wrap until they are cool enough to handle. Now for the next part, for the love of god, wear rubber gloves! I made this mistake last year, and apparently was too stupid to remember it this year, and made it again. Hatch chiles are hot. They run between 5,000 and 7,000 scoville units. For reference, Jalapenos are in the 2,500-8,000 range. Just keep that in mind. After doing probably 20 peppers, my hands were BURNING. And I tried many different things to get rid of the pain, all with very limited success. I had to remove my contacts and wash my face using a rubber glove that night. Not exaggerating, it took 24 hours to stop hurting, and even 36 hours later, I would get occasional burning sensations. Not pleasant. Wear gloves. Anyway, once the peppers have been charred, covered, and cooled, the skin should be loose and peel off pretty easily. Peel all of your peppers. Then go through and remove the stem end and pull the inner membrane and seeds out.
After roasting, peeling, and deseeding, I individually vacuum packed each chile. I know that this seems wasteful, and it kind of is. My reasoning is that last year I packed a few in each package and would usually only use one or two for a particular recipe or dish, and then struggle to find a use for the remainder of the package. This way, they defrost in seconds under a stream of warm water and I won’t have leftovers. Your mileage may vary. After vacuum sealing each pack, I labelled and weighed (I love weighing everything) and tucked them away in the freezer. Recipes utilizing hatch chiles to follow!