Making Salsa

1 04 2010

I’ve developed a habit of making salsa. It’s an art. I’m no expert, but I thought I’d share what I know. I use a blender for most ingredients because I’m lazy and I get favorable results. I may update this later. First, I have to go buy some stuff. Here’s what I start with:

  • Tomatoes – I buy about at least one pound of Roma tomatoes. I don’t really know if they’re better for this purpose than other tomatoes, but I know they work. One pound is about 10 or 12.
  • Onion – One red, white, or yellow onion should more than enough
  • Garlic – One bulb is more than enough. If you don’t have a garlic press and don’t like chopping garlic by hand, you can use the chopped bottled stuff or garlic powder.
  • Peppers – For my most recent batch, I used 3 jalapeno and 3 serrano peppers (all fresh). That makes for some pretty hot salsa, hotter than most people prefer. The heat mostly comes from the relatively tiny serranos. For weak salsa, you might want to use a bell pepper to get that texture without the heat.
  • Cilantro – With fresh cilantro, one bunch is plenty. You can also use dried cilantro.
  • Lemon – One should be sufficient. You can also use a lime.
  • Spices – You need three things: salt, pepper, cumin.
  • Other things (that you might like but don’t need) – Oregano, dried peppers, green onions, vinegar, chili powder, red pepper, and so on…


First, I boil water in a pot and put cold water in another pot or large bowl. Then, I cut a little ‘X’ on the bottom of each tomato and drop in about half of them in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, and then immediately into the cold. This is done to remove the skin, which should now peel right off. Then, I split them into quarters and cut out the white guts and seeds. This process might be easier with fewer larger tomatoes, but it works for me. Once I have a pile of skinless seedless tomato quarters, I chop the ever-loving hell out of them. If I find pieces that still have the skin attached, they get dropped into the blender. Actually, I always put at least some tomato chunks in the blender. The chopped pieces get strained and go into the main bowl. At this point I usually need to wipe the tomato blood from my counter top.

Next, I chop the onion. If it’s a large onion, I might not use all of it. I try to chop into very small pieces. When a start to cry, I throw the rest in the blender. Then, I chop the peppers into large chunks and toss them into the blender as well. Fresh garlic and fresh cilantro will also go in there if I’m using them. These are strong flavor ingredients, so I’d go easy if it’s your first time. Maybe use half a bunch of cilantro and two cloves of garlic. At this point I should have everything in the blender that needs to go in there, so I fire it up. There should be some kind of liquid in there (tomatoes) to get it all to turn. I use a blender because it’s what I have and chopping is tiring. If you have a food processor, give that a try. If all you have is a knife and a cutting board, that’s fine too. So, I run the blender just enough to get everything chopped, not to make soup.

Next, I pour the blender mix into the tomato and onion chunks and mix them up. Now, it’s time to add acid and spices. I’ll start with the juice from half of the lemon, probably two tablespoons of salt and about as much black pepper and cumin (Edit: try less at first). Of course, dried cilantro, jarred garlic and any extra stuff goes in now. Now, I mix it all up. At this point, it won’t taste right yet. I put a lid on the bowl and stick in the fridge for at least a day. Initially, the fresh peppers will taste very green (because they are) and most of the heat will be on the back of the tongue, which few will enjoy. After some time, the flavors will mix together and bring the heat forward a bit. After I take it back out of the fridge, it’s time to taste it and adjust accordingly. This is the art. Adding salt helps blend the flavors, while black pepper intensifies the flavor. Cumin seems to sort of sweeten the heat, if that makes any sense. Beyond that, I’m still learning and can’t always tell when I need to add more lemon, cumin, or garlic.



2 responses

1 04 2010

Two tablespoons of salt, pepper, and cumin? I’d think teaspoons based on the quantities of vegetables involved, but I haven’t attempted this recipe.

2 04 2010

I’ve never actually measured how much of anything I put in. That’s really just a guess (a bad guess, perhaps?). I season to taste, but I know people like to have a starting point and I didn’t think two tablespoons was too much of any of that, although a lot of recipes call for less. Others might say you should use less salt, but it always seems that more salt makes it taste better. Also, I like salt a lot. It really might be a good idea to go easier on the pepper, especially at first, but I like what it does to the flavor, probably more than most people. Others might disagree. Cumin is subtle, so it’s hard for me to gage what it actually does to the flavor. The good side of this is that you don’t have to worry too much about adding too much.

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