What is Salsa???? Really, do you know?

fresh tomato salsaI have already done 3 blogs on the subject of Salsa. The one on Strawberry Salsa is by far the biggest single most popular blog I have done. Almost every day I see that  the number of clicks on that blog is the favorite. Here is the blog if you would like to go back and see it https://canucanit.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/strawberry-salsa-and-recipe/. I love that people are looking up how to make things and I hope they have tried the recipe. With that in mind I am going to add another blog on Salsa. This blog will be about the things that go into your salsa. I know that I said it would be cooking like grandma did, but my grandmother never made salsa at any time in her life. So I am talking about the grandmothers out there that make it or have made it. I can adopt one for this blog. So no e-mails talking about what my grandmother made or didn’t.

The other two blog on Salsa are listed here, so please go back and take a look at them. I only have one rule about that: You have to come back and try read about Salsa in this blog. https://canucanit.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/do-you-know-salsa-no-not-the-dance-the-other-kind-of-salsa/  and this being that last of the three   https://canucanit.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/its-salsa-time-in-the-kitchen-fruit-salsa-that-is/

Most of my recipes are fruit salsa, only a couple are traditional salsa, sort of like the stuff they try to pass off as salsa in the Tex-Mex restaurants. Salsa’s definition comes from food.com not my usual source. They say: Spanish for sauce. Salsa is made from various ingredients and may be fresh or cooked. It is commonly made from tomatoes, chilies and onions. Green salsa is made with tomatillos and green chili. There are many recipes for salsa, and different varieties may be found in the local grocery store, usually in the “Mexican” or international section. Now that we know what the word means, lets talk about what goes in and how it is made. Different places make it completely different.

Restaurant Salsa

Restaurant Salsa

I think the bowl at our favorite restaurant is nothing more that tomatoes and peppers put in a blender and pureed till there was nothing that resembled a chunk. I think I should use a straw in place of a chip to eat this stuff. The salsa in the jars is just the opposite, they just mix tomato pieces with peppers and call it salsa. Well I don’t know about you, but I like something that takes a little more than 2 minutes to make. I like a salsa to taste like things that are blended together not pureed. It is impossible to tell what is in those types of salsa.

One of the simple joys in life is sitting watching TV or just being lazy on the my deck and munching on good chips and good salsa, maybe with a tall cool one.  My salsa favorite looks like the first photo, it is chunky, but not too big of chunks. You can enjoy canned salsa if you do it right to start with. Follow my blogs and become a salsa purest.

A few simple things to take care of before we start cooking. People always wonder what is the best tomato to use or the best pepper. I have a canned answer for these people. I say what kind do you like to eat? It just stands to reason that if you use the foods you like to eat, then what you make will taste good to you. We used the Plum Tomato or Rosa Tomato when it was available. We liked the flavor and the texture. If you like to eat Cherry Tomatoes, you can use them, but you might have a little more work than using another type. Many ask if they have to peel the tomato before it’s use. That is a little harder. For fresh salsa you can use tomatoes without removing the skin.

X marks the spot on your tomato

X marks the spot on your tomato

For most canned salsa you will be happier with your results if you peel the tomatoes first. You mean you don’t know how to peel a tomato? It is so simple. All you need is a small pot of boiling water and a sharp knife and a bowl with ice water. Clean your tomato then make a small X on the top of the tomato. Using a slotted spoon place the tomato into the pot of boiling water. Don’t drop it in, it will splash and you can burn your self that way. Let the tomato sit in the water 15 – 20 seconds. Carefully remove and place in a bowl of ice water. I mean ice water, with ice floating. Do 4 or 5 tomatoes before you take any out of the water. Peel-TomatoI like to hold the tomatoes with a clean dish towel, this keeps the fruit from slipping away. What, you didn’t know that tomatoes are a fruit? Well check Wikipedia for the definitions of a fruit and vegetable. You will be surprised, I’ll bet. Anyhow, using the knife grab the piece of tomato skin and pull away from the meat. You will get a beautiful peeled tomato. this will give you a better tomato for doing canned salsa. You might like it better for things other than canned salsa. The skin can get a bit tough when you cook it. Now that you know how easy it is to peel, you might use peeled tomatoes for all your cooking.

Bell Peppers.  The color doesn't change the heat.

Bell Peppers.
The color doesn’t change the heat.

The question about the peppers is a little harder. Everybody likes some sort of peppers. Some prefer mild and some can’t get them hot enough. I think some people hate the name pepper. So use the kind of peppers that you like to eat. If you don’t like anything that even looks like it might be spicy, use a blend of sweet peppers, like Bell. The red pepper is not hotter than the green or yellow or orange. They pretty much have the same taste and heat level. I use all types of peppers for my personal salsa. For the salsa that we sold, we also used many types. The reason for this is that each peppers has a its own flavor. To get the best taste use a medley of peppers, you will notice the difference.

What is a hot pepper? People the world-wide have ask that question. The only way to solve that query is with a chart for heat. Someone named Scoville developed a way to measure something that gives it heat. Well you know me, here is the Wikipedia explanation.

The Scoville scale is the measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU)[1] indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.[2] The modern commonplace method for quantitative analysis uses high-performance liquid chromatography, making it possible to directly measure capsaicinoid content.

Scoville Heat Chart

Scoville Heat Chart

Peppers are measured for capsaicin and the results are posted on charts available to print or even buy as a poster. If you would like to print the poster that I have, just click on the photo. This should give you a larger version. Then right-click to save. It is a handy thing to have. You can also look up Scoville Charts and find many different charts. Find one you like and save it. Looking at the chart I am sure you will find peppers that you know about and many that you did not. The hotter peppers are usually the ones that you did not know. I am sure you get the idea, every pepper has its own heat as well as its own taste. Both are needed to have a well-rounded salsa. A hint about cooking with hot peppers, you can always add heat to something. You can’t take any out. So when you are making your salsa, use more than one temperature pepper. Don’t worry about the people that think ketchup is too spicy. They aren’t going to eat any anyhow.

Well I have covered the two main ingredients in most salsa. Next I will talk about onions. Types of OnionsThere are many different types of onions available in most areas. I think everyone has a sweet onion variety (Vidalia or otherwise), a yellow onion and green onions. The yellow onions come in many types and flavors, so use the one you like. Some like a Bermuda Onion. If you use green onions only use a small amount of the green part in a salsa that is going to be cooked and canned. In fresh, use as much as you like. The green, if cut into small slices looks really good as a garnish. So with onions, again I say use what ever you have available. Don’t search for something you might not have. Check your roadside stands and your grocers. They are going to have the best variety with the best price. Chopping the onions for cooked salsa needs to be bigger than for fresh salsa. With cooked the onion will disappear if you chop too small. Fresh you don’t want the onions to be too big so that they don’t fit on your chips. Use good judgement, no one wants to bite into a mouthful of onion when they are expecting salsa.

What is left? We have not talked about Cilantro, or garlic, salt, black pepper. These are  not unimportant things! A little side bar if you don’t mind. I have never been asked what type of onion, or garlic, or anything else. People just want to know about tomatoes and peppers. Little do most know, the onion can change the flavor as well as other things.

I like some crushed garlic in both my canned salsa as well as my fresh. It needs to be thought about as one of the first ingredients used. Why? Because it has to blend it’s flavor with all the other food, not the other way around. The same goes for Cilantro. Again I went to the food.com for a definition for you. skd287280sdcCilantro: A herb with wide delicate lacy green leaves and a pungent flavor. The seed of the cilantro plant is known as coriander. Although cilantro and coriander come from the same plant, their flavors are very different and cannot be substituted for each other. (Some countries refer to the cilantro as coriander, so any references to “fresh coriander” or “coriander leaves” refer to cilantro.) Note: “Culantro” is a herb related to cilantro that is widely used in dishes throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Far East. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the most commonly used in cooking. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.



The garlic family has many types of edible bulbs. Garlic has a completely different taste if you use it crushed and diced to go into something fresh (make sure you get it as small as possible). Garlic should be one of the first ingredients like Cilantro. It needs time and moisture to blend it’s rich, strong flavor with everything else in your salsa. Some cloves are very strong in taste, while others might even be called mild.

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic

Like I said there are different kinds of garlic. Did you know that there is one called Elephant Garlic. Believe it or not, the taste of this garlic is quite mild when compared to it’s smaller cousins. When I first heard someone talking about it, I thought they had lost their minds. But instead of speaking up and telling them they were crazy, I waited til I got home and looked on the internet. I was shocked by the photos.

Aside from the use of garlic to cook, it has another use. It is used to keep vampires away. With the proliferation of vampire shows and movies, I guess their population is on the increase. In my area we have “Vampire Diaries” and in the town were I live they are filming the sequel to that show.  So I am sure that there will be plenty of vampires running around. Keep your garlic necklace handy.

Well the main ingredients are covered, what is left; Salt and Black Pepper, Cumin, Chili Powder, Vinegar, Lemon Juice?

Bowls of Spices

Bowls of Spices

I use a little cumin, I think it gives a richness to the flavor as well as a smokiness.  I use Sea Salt for my salsa, use that or just the salt you have. Black pepper, I leave up to the person eating it. Do you want it, add it. I have it on the table. I do not add it to my salsa, fresh or canned. I definitely would not add it to salsa that I am going to can. Chili Powder is put in my canned salsa, to give it a boost. I don’t use it in fresh. I get enough flavors from my fresh peppers. Now on the subject of vinegar. Many do not use it for various reasons. I use it in both my fresh and canned salsa. I use Cider Vinegar because of the taste, many use white vinegar, but I don’t know why they prefer that one. It just adds a bite, and not really an addition to the flavor. When I talk about lemon juice, I am always talking about fresh not from a bottle. If fresh is not available or handy. You can buy frozen lemon juice in your grocery store. We buy a couple and keep one thawed for use all the time. It is made from fresh lemons with no preservative added. Another spice note, I have even heard of people putting cinnamon in their salsa. It makes sense, the cinnamon comes from the same area that salsa comes from. I may try it and see what it does.

I guess that leaves me with just one more salsa to talk about, Salsa Verde. We have a pretty good recipe . I hope that if you try this, you will enjoy it as much as we have.

Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

Tomatillo Salsa/ a.k.a. Salsa Verde: 5 1/2 cups chopped, cored, husked tomatillos (about 2 pounds). 1 cup chopped onion. 1 cup chopped green chili peppers. 4 cloves garlic, minced. 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro. 2 teaspoons cumin. 1/2 teaspoon salt (kosher, canning or sea). 1 teaspoon red pepper. 1 cup vinegar. 1/4 cup fresh lime juice. Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned. Serve fresh or can, it keeps quite well with only a little reduction in flavor. I first thought this salsa was made from green tomatoes. I later found out that tomatillos are know as Husk Tomatoes by some.

Again, all the above information is up to the chef to decide. Yes I use this or not I don’t. If I use it, how much? It is not easy being a cook, everybody sticks their nose in your kitchen. Look at me, that is my main job with my blogs. I just hope that after reading a blog, you are motivated enough to go cook. Do some home canning.

Some of the ribbons and awards Mary Lynn and I won.

Some of the ribbons and awards Mary Lynn and I won.

Make something that you like, and maybe you can enter it in a county, or state fair. Win a ribbon! Win a certificate! Just enter for the fun of it (it is more fun if you win something). The photo on the right is just some of the ribbons and awards Mary Lynn and I won. I even won a couple of the big ribbons for “Best of Show”. I even won a Gold Medal for Blackberry Jam.       Give your friends and family gifts of your homemade items. A note about giving something as a gift. Have the ingredients written down and give it along with your product. Many people have food allergies. If you don’t let them know what is in the gift they might not eat it, and that would be a shame. So be kind and type a list to give with any food gift. Or put it on the label that you make for your product. Mary Lynn had such a bad reaction to MSG, that it brought on a heart attack. It was not a really bad one, but there is no such thing as a good heart attack.

blender-salsaI hope that you get busy and make some salsa (leave the blender under the counter!!!!!). Remember, don’t make it so that you can use a straw. And don’t make it so that you need a fork. Go for something in between. You will like it better and those you serve will like it even more. The ones that like the runny kind, well they can just wait til their next visit to the Mexican Restaurant.

It looks like I have run out of time or space or whatever bloggers run out of. Cook something and send me a photo! If I get enough photos with a little info about you making it and serving it, I will do a blog of nothing but photos and stories. Wouldn’t that look great!

Don’t forget…. let me know what you would like to make or any ideas you have for the next blog. Also if you have any questions you would like me to try to solve. Just drop me a note at jellymanga@gmail.com.

Don’t keep my blogs a secret, pass the word on to your friends, neighbors and family members. They just might make something and share with you.

Please feel free to SHARE my blog on Facebook or Twitter or even MySpace.com. I want to get as many people exposed to the good things as possible. So share and ask your friends to share, PLEASE.Jellyman Hat

Don’t forget, if someone asks you can you can it? 

Say YES I can can it.

About Pete Austin & The Austin House

My wife, Mary Lynn and I had a very sucessful canning business for over 15 years, called The Austin House Jams & Jellies. We had to close it due to pure health. I will be writing a blog about some of the recipes, and how to use them. Also some of the interesting, funny, weird things that have happened in our traveling with the business. If you follow me, you will see that I look at things just a little different than others. If you look at the header at the top of the page, you see that I am looking at things. Making sure eveything looks as good as possible.
This entry was posted in Award Winning, Best of Show, Canning Jars, Canning Salt, Chipolte Peppers, Cider Vinegar, Cilantro, Cinnamon Sticks, Citrus Fruit, Clove of Garlic, Cooking, Family Tradition, Food Preservation, Garlic, Georgia National Fair, Green Tomato, Habanero Peppers, Home Made, Hot, Key Lime Juice, Kosher Salt, Native American, New Orleans, No artifical ingredients, No preservatives, Old Fashioned, Oranges, Organic, Plum Tomato, Recipe, Red Onion, Rosa Tomato, Salsa, Sauce, Serrano Peppers, Thai Peppers, Tomato, Vidalia Onions, White Vinegar and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What is Salsa???? Really, do you know?

  1. gbubemi says:

    You are really awesome…. Want to ask a question…. Can I add meat or fish to my cooked salsa

    Sorry for such a late reply, I have been in the hospital since the end of June.
    You can add at meal time, but not in the canning stage. That requires a total different method that only comical a cannery can afford.
    Glad you like my blog, I should be able to write more in a month or so.


  2. Steve Cook says:

    By definition Salsa is a sauce, yet so many people think chopped vegetables with some seasoning is salsa. I don’t usually worry about words, but chopped seasoned veggies are not great for what I intend salsa to be used for (dipping chips or putting on entrees). A good quick blending and it will mix it up a bit and event out the flavors, while making it more useful. Your first picture is not salsa, it is not a sauce at all. I don’t know where this trend of watery veggie mixed started (maybe mixing in Mediterranean), but it seems lazy at best, or a failed attempt to make real salsa. I tend to never return to a restaurant that substitutes this for salsa, as it tastes off and doesn’t really work, not to mention it is messy. Sorry about the negativity, but this is one trend I would love to stop. I started seeing it when people “bring” salsa to put lucks, but now I am seeing various restaurants doing it, and want then to know not everyone likes it.


    • I write about what most people think and like. I get comments like yours sometimes. I like to reply with the comment; If I disagree with 20% of the readers, then I have agreement or am ignored by 80%. I like those odds as a writer. No one makes 100% of the readers happy.
      I respect your opinions and have a blog that is dedicated to sauces only. It is just about finished and waiting on me to add a couple more. I hope your read and agree with that blog.
      Thanks for reading and taking your personal time to write me. I wish that you would subscribe to my blogs, but that may be asking too much.
      Pete Austin. Jellymanga


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s