We walked into Kroger the other day on a banana and cereal run, and there they were--Hatch chiles for 88 cents a pound. We got enough for a batch of rellenos and had them for dinner, all the while saying, these are good, but they probably aren't really from Hatch, but they taste like it (we'd read that some places capitalize on the Hatch name).
Yesterday, I went back for more. Walking into the produce department, I saw that they were now down to 49 cents a pound. I immediately rolled over to the produce guy stocking and asked if he just had a box I could buy. Even better, he led me back to the produce area and let me hand pick what I wanted out of the box. These are authentic Hatch chiles--the shipping containers confirmed it. He held the bags open for me while I picked out chiles--long, fleshy, straight ones (that's a picture of yesterday's haul above).
While we were bagging, he started telling me his chile story. He loves to stuff them with string cheese and throw them on the grill, then pop them on top of a burger. Enboldened by the fact that I was actually listening to his cooking story, he then moved on to one about how he converted his nephew into a "thigh" man by grilling the best chicken thighs. We continued to talk about chiles, too, and what my plans for my 12 pounds were going to be.
I got all 12 pounds roasted before lunch and then was a good girl--I put on latex gloves to peel some to stuff. I got three good ziplock bags full of whole roasted chile and 31 rellenos, which I quick froze and then packed in bags. I went back for more this morning.
While I would probably be fine with what I had put up yesterday, I just couldn't pass up this deal and I fear that if they throw a lot of them out, Kroger won't order them again next year. Yesterday, Produce Man told me they had over-ordered and as he said, they were starting to rot (although to be honest, out of the box I was pulling from the loss was not any worse than when I order them shipped in. In a 25 pound box, you can expect to have at least 1/2 dozen oogey chiles in there). As I checked out yesterday, the cashier wanted to know, "are these as hot as jalapenos?" The best answer I could give her was "sometimes. Some are really mild and fruity, and sometimes you'll get a magical one that blows the top of your head off." The bagger wanted to know if I was "making A LOT of salsa?" And I explained that I was topping off my freezer.
My new friend in produce wasn't there this morning, so I just bought almost all of the ones they had out on the end cap--about an additional 8 pounds. Those are roasted and resting, and some will get eaten tonight with homemade whole wheat tortillas and pinto beans.
I decided, since I know the produce code after yesterday, to self check (if you want the code it's 4700. I bet I'll remember that for months). While the happy self check man was entering my 12 cent cloth bag discount, he saw what I was ringing up. "Hey, you going to make rellenos with those?" He walked over and shared his chile story--his ex-wife is from Mexico and he lived with her family for a long time. Apparently, when he used to be produce manager, he'd take home cases of chiles for rellenos. You could tell, too, that for him it was all about the chile--he wasn't even really sure what his mother-in-law used to stuff them with, but he had a twinkle in his eye as he described his distant memory of how she fixed them.
So, I hope they order again next year. I've already emailed HQ with a big thank you for ordering them this year, and I hope that the excitement of the Kroger employees over the chiles will help ensure we get more. We do have several Big Jim plants that are getting loaded down in our container garden, and I'll be interested to see how Arkansas makes them taste different than they do in New Mexico.
I'm just glad that I'll have enough laid in the freezer to have chiles at least once or twice a month between now and next year! That may not keep me from going back in a day or so (maybe this weekend) to see if they still have more!