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Let me start by saying that I am not a cook by any means.

Now, I love salsa and I always have, but mostly I just get store brands. I've had homemade salsa before and it tends to be a lot more flavorful, and for that reason I'd like to try my hand at making some.

What exactly is "salsa" defined as? What are the core ingredients? Is it cheaper to make it myself or to buy it from the store? If I make it myself, about how long is the shelf life?

I realize that salsa tends to be pretty simple to make, but I see so many variations, and internet searches bring me many different recipes.

What will I need to get started?

10

Recipes
As far as salsa recipes go, they're all over the web. Check sites like allrecipes.com or epicurious.com - - or justrightmenus.com!

Shelf Life

  • Refrigerator. With regard to shelf life, according to stilltasty.com, you're only going to get 5-7 days out of fresh salsa in the refrigerator.

  • Freezer. The same source says you can keep it for 1-2 months in the freezer. Use containers meant for storing frozen foods (they make plastic lidded containers for this very purpose), and leave "headspace" in the container (room for expansion as the liquid freezes). If you opt for freezing, you can use any recipe you'd like. Food safety won't be an issue so much as quality would. For example, I would not recommend freezing a melon salsa, though it's great fresh.

  • Canning. You also could pressure can your salsa. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is the best resource to learn to can. If you opt for canning, be sure to follow a trusted canning recipe - you can't just can any old recipe. I would use one off the National Center's site.

Cost Comparison
It all depends on what you make and the price of your ingredients, of course. If I can get cheap salsa at cost X and expensive, tasty salsa and cost 2X, my goal in making my own is to achieve great taste at a cost less than 2X. My homemade blueberry jam costs me about $2 per jar, much more expensive than generic jam; however, good blueberry jam is about $5 at the store.

Incidentally, I'll be making salsa this summer once I can get lots of cheap tomatoes. Keep an eye on jessica.mcrackan.com late in the summer if you'd like some real examples and cost comparisons.

  • 2
    5-7 days in the fridge is optimistic in my experience. Salsa (especially really fresh stuff, ESPECIALLY if it has avocado in it) is significantly less good after 48 hours. – Paul McMillan Aug 8 '10 at 3:52
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    I agree that the time in the fridge depends on the kind of salsa, for sure. Thanks for mentioning that. – JustRightMenus Aug 8 '10 at 15:51
  • I've seen lots of recipes for canned salsa that don't require a pressure canner. Is this because of the vinegar content? – Peter Turner Sep 17 '10 at 14:56
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    @Peter Turner - tomatoes are on the border for what can be canned w/ a water bath and what should be pressure canned. So, it's certainly conceivable for a salsa recipe to be water-bath canned. If the recipe gives instructions for water-bath canning and is a trusted, tested one (from Ball or the Nat'l Ctr or somewhere like that), then I'm sure it's fine. – JustRightMenus Sep 17 '10 at 15:12
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I've lived in Austin for 15+ years, I lived a couple miles from the TX-Mexico border until I was nine years old. I have prepared many salsas at home and tasted many at restaurants and homes.

My general advice on salsa is:

  1. Pick a base (Tomato or Tomatillo (or both!))

  2. Add onion and/or garlic. Add dried or fresh chiles (e.g., guajillo, ancho, chipotle or fresh ones like jalapeno, serrano, poblano, hatch, etc.)

  3. Put those things in a blender or you can chop them up and begin to cook them on your stove top. If you are chopping the ingredients I suggest buying canned diced tomatoes. If you don't use canned diced tomatoes and try to cook your salsa after only hand chopping the ingredients it will take forever to cook, and the flavors won't really mingle. You want it to boil but only for a moment. Turn the heat down so it doesn't boil for too long!

  4. Add a little bit of salt (don't overdo it!)

  5. Add finely-chopped cilantro.

  6. Let it cool down and serve warm or put it in the fridge. (You'll notice a flavor difference in the same salsa based on the serving temperature)

I could talk about salsa forever, but use this process and change variables one at a time until you start to find what you like!

5

Salsa in Mexico is normally what you would call a spicy hot dressing that you put on the table so people can serve themselves and spread it over their dishes or inside their tacos. As we do it in the center of Mexico it must be very (spicy) hot. There are different kinds: fresh, cooked: boiled, grilled.

The most commonly used fresh salsa is the pico de gallo also known as Salsa Bandera or Salsa Mexicana, these last two names refer to the colors of Mexico's flag.

Pico de gallo ingredients are: Chopped red oval or Roma tomatoes (called jitomate in Mexico), chopped onion, chopped serrano pepper (or green Jalapeño), chopped cilantro leaves (fresh), juice of one sour lemon (or lime), a pinch of salt. You mix them and serve in a small bowl.

A boiled / grilled red sauce can have the following ingredients:

4 Serrano peppers (you can increase/decrease the number depending how hot you want it)
2 Red tomatoes (Jitomates)
1 quarter of onion
1 garlic clove 
Salt
Fresh Cilantro just a bit (2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup of water

You need to bring the peppers and tomatoes to a boil until they are very tender or toast them in the grill/pan until the skin starts turning black. If grilled you may want to remove the hard skin from the tomatoes after grilling them. If you boiled them you can reuse the water in the next step.

Finally, you put everything in the blender. If you want it to be very liquid use a high speed. If you want it to be thick use a lower speed.

4

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salsa_(sauce)

If you're talking about typical american salsa, the main concept seems to be tomato, hot pepper, onion as a base for the recipe. The sauce is not usually cooked, although ingredients may be cooked separately (like roasting the jalapenos or garlic).

3

I'll keep this simple.

Tomatoes, onions, jalapenos--cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper.

Dice, food process, or blend for desired texture, add jalapenos to taste, cilantro and garlic to preference, and salt as needed. Squeeze in some lime juice.

Quickly grill or roast any of the main ingredients for a smoky flavor. I've had good results with green peppers, even regular bell peppers.

It's cheaper yourself. It has no additives/artificial flavors or preservatives. It's not pasteurized, so it won't last as long. It tastes much better.

  • What do you mean by green peppers? Jalapenos, cerranos, etc? As long as you don't mean bell pepper... – Ryan Elkins Aug 8 '10 at 3:05
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    I do sometimes put bell pepper in salsa, especially roasted. Do you disagree? – Ocaasi Aug 8 '10 at 4:29
  • I think he's saying any kind of pepper that is green, even green bell peppers. – Sam Hoice Aug 9 '10 at 0:48
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There are many different recipes because there are many different salsas.

Pick three or four recipes, and try them all. Then make up your own.

1

I've posted this before in another discussion, but my personal favorite is avocado, corn (roasted husk-on on the BBQ), cucumber, and cherry tomatoes, with a little bit of very finely diced garlic, and lime juice to taste. I usually add a jalapeno or two as well, which I also roast on the BBQ.

0

Definition

First, I don't know if there is an official definition for mexican "salsa", "salsa" is a liquid mixture of ingredients, hot or cold. According to the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, the salsa among Mexican people is a symbol of identity and indispensable part of our food. Popular knowledge says that a salsa that is not spicy is not a salsa.

Core Ingredients

Among all the salsas I've taste and made so far I can tell that the core ingredients are:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Chile
  • Tomates verdes (green tomatoes) or regular tomatoes (red)

We can say this are the very core ingredients in a salsa.

Recipes

We need to talk about recipes if we want to know if it's cheaper to do or to buy salsa. First, we can say they're three types of salsas according to the way they are prepared:

  • Boiled ingredients
  • Fried ingredients
  • Fresh ingredients

We can say that salsas that are made with fresh ingredients are cheaper, but it depends on the ingredients that you can add to the core ingredients mentioned before. Some of the ingredients you can add to your salsa are:

  • Coriander
  • Avocado (which is expensive)
  • variety of spices
  • orange juice or lemon juice

But generally I think that, wether it's cheaper or not it's definitely a better taste in homemade salsas.

Get Started

First you need a blender and a cooking pot for fried and/or boiled ingredients.

For example you can use the Core Ingredients to make a salsa in three different ways:

you put onions choped, garlic and tomatoes (red/green) and chile (can be dried chile or fresh chile) in a pan without water or oil and you just wait the ingredients to turn a little burned. Then mix them in the blender to have a more traditional sauce.

You can put onions choped, garlic and tomatoes (green) and chile in a pan with oil and fry all the ingredients and then when they turn pale you blend them (be careful you need to wait until the ingredients are cooled before you blend them otherwise the blend would explode with salsa all over your face) this get's you a smoother salsa.

The other option is chop all the ingredients in dice an mixed them and you have a kind of pico de gallo which can be considered as a fresh salsa.

I usually store my salsas in the refrigerator for about one or one and a half week, but they do not last to much because we ate them all, and also is always better to have fresh salsa.

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