The Hatch Chile Store, located in Las Cruces, grows, produces and ships genuine Hatch chile nationwide. They supply hundreds of restaurants and food suppliers in the state with green and red chile. This family owned operation is part of an agricultural legacy that began in Hatch, New Mexico several generations ago.
Go West, Young Man
When Celestina Mary Formolo and Joseph Carlos Franzoy arrived in New Mexico 82 years ago they didn’t know anything about growing peppers. At the time Hatch was not synonymous with chile. Celestina and Joseph grew up in Austria. They were playmates as children, sweethearts as teenagers and, later, the husband and wife team that contributed to the agricultural legacy and chile legend of Hatch.
When Joe immigrated to the United States in 1905, he worked the iron mines in Michigan. He sent money back to Austria to pay for Celestina to join him. She arrived in November, 1905. They were married on December 23, 1905.
After four and a half years in Michigan, and the birth of three children, Joe’s eyes turned west. With a growing family and a desire to work the land, Joe headed to Arizona to secure work. After landing a job with the railroad, Joe sent for his family. When the railroad work dried up, Joe found a job in construction. When construction dried up, he worked in the mines. For 15 years Joe struggled to overcome a variety of challenges, obstacles and hardships, but he never gave up on his dream to own and farm a piece of land.
Working the Soil
In 1917, Joe purchased sixty acres along the Rio Grande near Salem, New Mexico. Fifty-four acres of the parcel were within the flood plain of the Rio Grande bosque, with six acres suitable for farming. Joe moved to the farm in 1917. Celestina and the children joined him in February, 1918. They cleared the six acres of good land and planted vegetables, selling in larger markets nearby. They gradually expanded their production and distribution to include markets further afield, like Fort Bayard and Las Cruces.
Though the family wasn’t familiar with chile when they arrived, they were quickly introduced to the piquant pepper that defines New Mexico’s cuisine, incorporating it into their annual crops early on. Joe was one of the first chile producers to ship out of state, supplying chile to California by 1919.
Over the decades Joe and his progeny became chile connoisseurs, working with the agriculture department at New Mexico State University to cultivate heirloom varieties and to develop high yield hybrids. Big Jim, Lumbria and Legacy peppers are products of this collaboration.
Passing on the Tradition
By 1929 he had 43 cows, including 30 dairy cows that needed to be milked before breakfast. Year after year Joe and Celestina worked, facing challenges side by side, raising a family, and building a life for themselves. As Joe and Celestina grew older, Joe bought land for each of his children. The original sixty acres expanded to thirty-five farms owned by the Franzoy family, as well as several other farms managed by Franzoys.
Joe Franzoy passed away in 1969, and Celestina followed him at the age of 92 in 1976, but they planted the seeds of the chile legacy associated with Hatch, with the fifth and sixth generations carrying on the family traditions. Several of today’s largest chile producers are descendants of Joe and Celestina, including the owners of The Hatch Chile Store based in Las Cruces. They ship an extraordinary amount of chile from the Hatch valley throughout the state and the nation. For brief periods of time during harvest, they ship both green and red fresh in 25-lb boxes. They have frozen green and red chile available throughout the year.
Red Chile Chicken Adovada
Servings: 8, depending on portion size
As the temperatures plummet during the winter months, one of my favorite ways to use red chile is to make chicken adovada. Like carne adovada, the slow roasting makes the meat incredibly tender. It can be cubed or shredded based on you plan to use it. When shredded the chicken has a brisket texture that is ideal with homemade tortillas. It is a simple meal that evokes nostalgia and fond memories of being at my grandmother’s table.
- 4 cups red chile sauce
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken
- 20 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- Put 3 cups of red chile sauce into a large plastic freezer bag. Add the chicken. Leave in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
- Place the chicken and the red chile sauce into a slow cooker.
- Peel and thinly slice at least 20 cloves of garlic, which is about 1 head. Add the garlic slices to the chicken.
- Add the vinegar and the red wine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover, and cook on low for up to 9 hours. During the last 3 hours, add the red onion.
- At the end of cooking, taste for seasoning and check texture. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add in 2 tablespoons of flour or cornstarch.
- Cube or shred the chicken.
Serve over rice, with tortillas, use as a base for enchiladas, or as burrito filling.
Please leave your recipe modifications, or any questions that you may have, in the comments.
If you live in an area where red chile is hard to find, you can order from the Hatch Chile Store. They ship frozen red and green chile nationwide. They have mild to hot varieties available. Each package is 1 pound, which is approximately 2 cups.