My family loves salsa. If we’re eating Mexican food, eggs, or just eating chips and salsa, we enjoy each fiery, garlicky bite. My first experience many years ago with salsa was prepared by my ex-mother-in-law. We were in Colorado Springs and she was making turkey enchiladas. As a condiment, she simply mixed a can of tomato sauce with some chopped jalapeno. And it was HOT! At least to my inexperienced taste buds at the time. I remember all sorts of attempts to tamp down the heat in my mouth, to no avail.
Since that maiden voyage, I’ve come to tolerate increasing degrees of culinary hot. In my opinion, salsa should be hot enough to bring color to your face, but not make you profusely sweat. My husband prefers hot salsa to decongestants to clear his sinuses.
We prefer freshly made salsa to the cooked or canned types that, to me, taste too much like tomato sauce. This recipe I learned from a family friend. Every time the family got together, we’d ask him to make his salsa, and to make it hot. Ben always obliged, and giggled as he added more hot peppers.
Another puzzlement for me is that all jalapeno peppers are not equally hot. I’ve made salsa in advance of a meal, only to be disappointed when we took our first big bite. Somehow, the peppers lost their bang after sitting for a hour or so in the fridge. I don’t know how to tell you how to judge the heat in peppers or how they will keep or lose their hotness other than the conventional wisdom: the smaller the pepper, the hotter. In my world, ancho chilies would be the mildest, jalapenos next, serranos are hotter, and habaneros the most intense. I’ve never used habaneros, but have substituted a serrano in this salsa recipe. If you want to try a smokey flavor with less heat, you might roast an ancho chile, remove the skin and seeds, and chop it to replace the hot peppers in the recipe.
I haven’t used tomatillos to make green salsa, but that’s next on my list. And fruit salsas are another good choice for those who prefer something milder tasting. Another rule of thumb is to remove the seeds and white insides of the peppers before you chop them, because that’s where the heat (capsaicin) resides.
This is Ben’s recipe for fresh, hot salsa. There’s not much to it, and it’s our go to stuff. Just mix the ingredients together and store it in the refrigerator for a hour or so to let the flavors meld. And if the salsa is too hot for you or your guests after their first bite or two, hand them a glass of lemonade, orange juice, tomato juice, or milk. The acid in the drinks will help break down the capsaicin oil floating around on the inside of your mouth from the peppers.
- 1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1-2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 8o z can tomato sauce (optional)
- 2 jalapeno or serrano, or one of each, petite dice. Remove the seeds and white veins inside the peppers for a milder salsa.
- 2 cloves garlic, petite dice
- 1 medium onion, petite dice
- Juice of one lime
- ½ teaspoonful crushed red pepper, if you want the salsa hotter
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Mix all the ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or put into serving bowl with a lid. Refrigerate for an hour or so to meld the flavors. I'd add 1 teaspoonful salt and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, then begin to correct the seasoning once everything is mixed together.