This is a fun recipe guaranteed to please you and your guests. It is best served as a snack or as an appetizer course with white corn tortilla chips (scoops are the best shape) and various beverages. But isn’t it easiest just to buy a jar of the stuff from the snack aisle at the supermarket? Easy, yes, intelligent, no.
Freshly made salsa is simply a whole lot better in taste and texture than any canned or bottled product. In fact, the bottled products all stink! That is why the best store bought salsas are found in plastic containers in the produce or specialty sections of supermarkets, fresh and refrigerated. I decided many years ago to make my own salsa to guarantee freshness, taste and minimum cost. Also, by making it myself I could vary the amount based on the number of people eating it at any event, and I could vary the ingredients to please different tastes. Similarly, I could divide the basic salsa into separate portions to vary the seasoning to please everyone from mild versions for children to fiery stuff for hot pepper fanatics.
There are many different types and flavors of salsa and I have tasted many that are just as good or better than mine but with a special flavor focus, like southwestern salsa, which contains some products and spices, like corn and chipotle, that I do not use. You can use my recipe as a starting point and then vary it to produce any flavor that pleases you best.
Note that with a good fresh salsa people tend to scoop fairly large amounts on to each white corn tortilla chip. This means the amount consumed will be larger than you might first conclude. Thus, the recipe shown below allows for about one cup of fresh salsa per person. That is significantly more than they would eat with a typical canned commercial product, and that is due primarily from the bulk resulting from using freshly chopped ingredients. Fresh is so much better …
Ingredients: (makes about 2 1/2 quarts, serves 10 people)
1, 28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes (or 6 large ripe fresh tomatoes)
12 oz. of tomato or V-8® juice (more if needed, none if using all fresh tomatoes)
3 ripe fresh large tomatoes
1 large sweet onion
4 stalks of celery
6 large cloves of garlic
1 large sweet red pepper
1 mild green pepper (optional … some folks don’t like green peppers)
1/4 cup of tightly packed freshly chopped cilantro (or 2 tbsp. dried cilantro … Buy the fresh cilantro!)
1 large lemon or one medium lemon and one lime (lime adds a unique flavor)
2 tsp. of sea salt
2 tsp. of black pepper
½ cup of Texas Pete’s® Hot Sauce or 1/4 cup of Sriracha Sauce (optional - for a medium hot salsa)
½ cup of chopped canned or fresh jalapeno peppers (optional, … for an extra hot salsa)
¼ cup of habanero pepper sauce (optional, … only for a very hot salsa)
2 giant or Family Size bags of white corn tortilla chips (the ones shaped like scoops are ideal)
Use a six quart mixing bowl, a sharp paring knife and a wood cutting board. Drain the juice from the can of tomatoes into the mixing bowl. Chop the tomatoes into pieces about the size of the end of your little finger. Put all of the pieces and the extra juice produced during chopping into the mixing bowl. Add the can of tomato or V-8® juice only if needed. The idea is that after all ingredients have been combined there should be barely enough liquid to keep everything wet, so you can defer the liquid addition until last. Cut the fresh tomatoes into roughly the same size pieces as the chopped canned tomatoes and add them to the mixing bowl.
Chop the onion into small pieces about ¼" by ¼". Similarly, cut the celery into small pieces about half the size of the end of your little finger. Do note that you can use a good food processor for all the firmer vegetables to speed up the process. Add both to the mixing bowl and mix gently. Finely chop the six cloves of garlic (some folks like more garlic, like 9 or 12 cloves) and add them to the mixing bowl. Finely chop the red/green pepper(s) and add them to the mixing bowl. About this point you will be cursing me as this recipe does have a labor component! Trust me, it is worth the effort. If you are lazy, buy the fresh salsa. If you are smart, use the food processor with a disc for fine chopping (I am too stupid and stubborn to use a food processor for this recipe).
Finely chop the fresh cilantro and put it into a one quarter cup measuring cup, pressed tightly, to be certain to have the right amount (The next time you make this recipe you may want to increase or decrease the amount of cilantro. Ditto the garlic.). Add it to the mixing bowl. Cut the lemon/lime in half and extract the juice into a separate small bowl. Remove any seeds and pour the juice into the mixing bowl. Add the salt and the pepper and mix the contents gently but thoroughly. Adjust the solids/liquid ratio if necessary by adding some additional tomato or V8 juice. As mentioned earlier, the liquid should barely cover the solids when they are pressed down into the bowl. Mix again.
Divide the salsa into equal parts by ladling it into sterilized one quart canning jars, but leave space in one jar for the ½ cup of Texas Pete’s® Hot Sauce. Add the Hot Sauce to the jar for those who like medium hot salsa, and reserve the other full jar for those who like mild salsa. You will have excess salsa after filling the first two jars. Use a third canning jar and reserve that extra jar of salsa for later addition of seasonings for the "hot" fanatics. Put lids on the jars and refrigerate the salsa, ideally for 24 hours. That will allow the seasonings to mix well with the other ingredients, particularly the cilantro and the garlic.
Serve the salsa in wide and deep bowls (for easy scooping) along with large bowls of white corn tortilla chips, and some beer or other beverages like frozen margaritas, lemonade, canned sodas, etc. You will get some nice compliments.
For those who like salsa to be very hot, take the third partial jar of salsa and add the optional habanero pepper sauce, chopped jalapeno peppers and/or Texas Pete’s® or Sriracha hot sauce in whatever proportions are desired.
Overall, the chips and salsa make a great appetizer course preceding many different types of outdoor meals. The secret is to serve them and the beverages immediately when guests arrive, about one hour before the main meal is served. The point is they will be enjoyed best and act as social stimulants if served early.
Leftover salsa will keep well and remain fresh in the refrigerator for a week if stored in the canning jar(s). I doubt it will last that long before use. Chips and salsa make a wonderful snack.