This is my recipe for stewed style salsa. A lot of the home recipies you’re likely to find for salsas tend to be fresh (raw) salsa. With fresh salsa you generally just chop up a bunch of ingredients, combine them, and then let them sit in the fridge over night so that the flavors combine. “Raw” salsas have a much different flavor as compared to stewed salsas, and I find I like them less so I rarely bother making them. A stewed salsa requires cooking or “stewing” the salsa in order to break down the ingredients and combine the flavors. Additionally, stewed salsa lasts a lot longer due to the cooking processs and can be easily canned for storage. Canned salsa can last upwards of a year. Generally a stewed salsa is going to be much softer than a fresh salsa as well, much like the mass market salsas you’ll find at the store.
Like many of my stove-top ventures, I don’t have an actual recipe for salsa. I have a basic idea of what I want to make, and do a lot of “to taste” alterations as I go. However, I can outline the basic process I use and show the ingredients I’m likely to include.
8 Medium tomatoes: about 3-4 cups when diced
Seeded and Diced Peppers*
1 chile ancho (Dried pablano pepper. If you can’t find one, use a small amount of liquid smoke or hickory smoke powder)
Diced Fresh Cilantro (Use as much as you feel necessary… I use about 1 cup loose)
1 medium Onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup red wine vinegar**
1 tsp salt**
1 1/2 to 2 tsp oregano (Mexican Oregano if you can get it: the taste is more powerful and has a twist of tarragon and citris flavor. When using mediterranean Oregano it’s useful to add some lime or lemon and use about 25% more. And, of course, fresh is always better than dried if available.)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh basil (or ~1 tsp dry)
Sugar to taste (Depends on sweetness of tomatoes used; generally only needed with commercial tomatoes or those that aren’t ripe).
*Choice and number of peppers depends largely on taste. Generally I mix a variety of peppers of the desired spiciness level with some Jalepeno or Banana peppers in order to produce a more robust pepper flavor. My favorite combination for a mild salsa is 3 Jalepenos, 3 Banana Peppers, and 1 Sarrano. For non-spicey I’d use 4 banana peppers and 1 bell pepper. For medium to medium-hot I’d use 3 Serrano, 2 Jalepeno, and 3 banana pepper. For hot, kick it up to 3 Jalepeno, 3 Serrano, and 2 Habenero. From there, just keep adding hot peppers until you’re happy. Make sure to always keep some Jalepeno (or other Annum peppers) in the mixture, as they add one of the primary “salsa” tastes to the mixture. Using only hot “chinense” peppers (such as Habanero or Scotch Bonnet) can produce a salsa that tastes like it’s missing something. That “something” is usually the taste of Annum peppers. Trust me on this one.
**If you are planning on canning the salsa, you’ll likely need more vinegar and use a pickeling salt rather than table salt. You can find this information pretty easily through Google. Also, you’ll have to use regular white vinegar when canning, and not red wine.
Boil some water in a kettle, and find a heat safe dish. Open up the ancho chile and remove the seeds and stem. Place chile in the heat safe dish and cover with boiling water. Let soak about 30 minutes (until the pepper has become hydrated). Once hydrated, dice finely and set aside.
Meanwhile, boil water in a big pot and fill a large bowl halfway with icewater. Blanch the tomatoes by putting them in the boiling water for about 1 minute each then transferring them to the ice water bath until they cool. Once cool, cut the tomato in half and remove the skin (which should come off easily) and as many of the seeds as you can. Note: The amount of time you’ll need to boil them varies greatly based on the species of tomato, how ripe they are, and how hot the water is. Riper tomatoes and beefsteaks require less time while pasting and less ripe tomatoes can take longer. If the skin comes off with too much liquified flesh attached to it, put them in for less time, and if the skin won’t come off, or only peels off in small chunks, you need more boiling time.
As you skin and seed the tomatoes, dice them and put them in a medium sauce-pot (2 quart size works well). Add everything up through the black pepper and slowly heat over medium low heat. The tomatoes will slowly release liquid until you are able to simmer the sauce. Simmer for about an hour on low heat, until the mixture reduces to desired consistency. Remove from heat then bruise the basil and add. Taste the mixture and add sugar if necessary (only rarely necessary in my experience… usually when using out-of-season or poorly ripened tomatoes). If you’re going to can the salsa, do it now, otherwise let the salsa cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and put it in the fridge to chill over night. The salsa can last up to a month if kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
Additional ingredient’s I’ve tried:
Corn: Works pretty well for raw salsas, but I was unimpressed with using it as an additive in a stewed salsa. You can give it a try, but I’d recommend against it.
Carrot: Worked pretty well for stewed salsa when diced fine, but didn’t really add much to the flavor when stewed; mostly just worked to bulk up and thicken the salsa. Not recommended for raw salsa as the flavor can overpower some of the other, more subtle, flavors.
Black Beans: Work very well in both raw and stewed salsa. Best if you use canned, precooked beans and add about 15 minutes before removing the salsa from heat.
Fresh Sage: Sage is generally overpowered by the cilantro and does not really add much to the salsa.
Parsley: Not a good substitute for cilantro.
-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?