On salsa: ambrosia itself

I have fallen deeply in love with homemade salsa – in my mind the quintessential summer food – and am on a quest to try new recipes.

I started my career as an educator at a local community college in southern Oregon. My boss for a while was a guy who was originally from Louisiana, IIRC, and halfway through my last year as a tutor he quit to start a salsa company – Roseburg Salsa. I though that was an interesting career move, but I wished him well and asked for a sample of his salsa whenever he got around to the production stage of his business.

He told me he used an “old family recipie” for his salsa. When I laughed he told me that, no, he was quite serious: it was a salsa that he would make for Super Bowl parties and summer BBQ’s and the like, and now he was going to market it and sell it. By the time he actually got the company off the ground I had moved out of the area, and so I only could get the salsa when I was back in town on holidays.

That was a bummer, because the salsa was absolutely addictive. You know how restaurant salsa (and pretty much every jarred salsa) is basically diced tomatoes, onions, and a few other bits floating in tomato juice? And the tomato flavor overwhelms everything else? Yuck. Well, Roseburg Salsa was blended, and the salsa was uniform and all the bits were small: each bite was full of flavor and not some gastronomical Russian Roulette. I loved the stuff.

I’m sure nobody on these board has ever even heard of this stuff let alone tried it. Thats too bad, it was amazing.

And apparently I’m not the only one who thought so. Cashiers would tell me his salsa was hugely popular, and the stuff would fly off the shelf as soon as it was stocked in local grocery stores. However, the owner had long-running feuds with both the city and local merchants and it became harder and harder to find. One day the company simply closed it’s doors and the guy moved back east, taking his precious salsa recipe with him.

I won’t lie. I was damn disappointed. By this time I had moved back from the big city and would snag myself some salsa on the rare occasions that I could find it. Then one day… poof! it was gone.

I made it my mission to replicate his recipe. I knew only two of the ingredients, because I ran into him one day in the store and his cart was full of two things: Ro-Tel canned tomatoes and powdered cumin. I had a feeling it had garlic in it, but everything else was a mystery. When covid lockdown started I decided to start playing around with different spice blends and try to come up with a good facsimile.

And I finally did it.

The secret ingredient that makes this stuff so damn good is the aforementioned cumin, as well as… dill. Dried dill weed from a decent spice merchant like Penzey’s. I tried various additives like cilantro and lime juice, and with the dill and cumin those additions added rather than detracted from the final product. Without dill and cumin, I had tomato sauce. No matter what I added to it, the tomato flavor reigned supreme.

I have no idea what the actual Roseburg Salsa recipe is, but to my taste buds this stuff is identical:

2 cans Ro-Tel original
1/2 t. cumin powder
1/2 t. dried dill weed
1t. minced or crushed garlic (not powdered)
1T onion powder
Black pepper. For the two cans of Ro-Tel I used about 6 twists on the pepper grinder. I think thats about 1/2 t.
1t. salt, to taste.

Put 1/2 can of the Ro-Tel in a blender along with the herbs, spices, and salt and mix well. Add the rest of the tomatoes and mix just enough to, well, mix. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. If you taste it straight from the blender it will just taste like the Ro-Tel. But give it a day or two for the flavors to blend… OMFG. It is to die for. It doesn’t seem like a lot of spices and seasonings, but it is certainly enough. Stir it well after its been sitting for a day and adjust salt as needed. Personally I’m sensitive to salt and if I can taste it the food is ruined for me. So, I add just enough to bring out some of the flavors.

Adding cilantro and lime during the initial blend is good too. My next experiment will be to use diced onions, fresh garlic, and fresh dill. See what that does to the final mix.

So now I’m on a quest now to try new salsas, hot sauces, and the like so if you have a favorite or a good recipe, I’d love to know it.

For a real treat, get some cumin seed and mash it yourself in a mortar and pestle. Worlds better than powdered. Like a whole different spice. I never liked cumin until I grinded up the seed.

Dill is an odd choice - very interesting! Are you sure he didn’t use Mexican oregano?

Interestingly, dill is one of the main, prominent herbs in Montreal Steak Seasoning blend.

I’ve made a smoked salmon and fennel salsa that was very nice.

I too love making homemade salsa. Your recipe is interesting. Like needscoffee said, I thought dill was an odd choice for a salsa, but intriguing. Also, no acid? No chiles? I use lime juice in my salsa, and some use vinegar. But I’m not familiar with Ro-Tel-- maybe it has other ingredients besides just tomatoes.

Also, I agree that grinding your own cumin seeds is the way to go. Not only tastes better but the whole seeds will stay fresh a lot longer than the preground stuff.

I make my salsa garden-fresh style, uncooked. I’ll share my recipe below, but I do also have a “holy grail” of salsa I want to emulate-- there’s a small chain of 3 Mexican restaurants in the SE Michigan area called “El Patio” that has salsa that is as addictive as crack. I always walk out of there full to bursting because I stuff myself with that salsa and tortillas before I get my meal. I have no idea what they put in their salsa, but I found this recipe for “restaurant salsa” that says to cook the salsa to “bind” the ingredients, so I want to try this technique, modifying the ingredients as necessary:

Anyway, here is my recipe:

  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (squeeze as much tomato juice out as possible-- an easy way to do this is to cut the top of the can all the way around, and push the top down with the can tilted to let the juice run out. Save the juice if you’re thrifty for soup or whatever)
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium to large onion- yellow or red
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (a little raw garlic goes a long way, so if it’s a large clove I go with one, otherwise, it overwhelms the other flavors)
  • 1-2 Jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 Habenero pepper (if you like it hot)
  • Juice of 1 juicy lime (or 2 not so juicy ones)
  • Oregano (I want to try real Mexican Oregano for this but so far have only used regular oregano. Hey, “regular oregano” is fun to say)
  • Salt

Blend carefully in blender so ingredients are well mixed but not too smooth- it should be at least somewhat chunky still. Can be served immediately, but gets better overnight.

Mmmmmmmm, salsa. I’m not into cooking but I think I could handle these recipes. Don’t know why I’ve never tried to before.
Since we’re talking about salsas we’ve known and loved, many (we’re talking 30+) years ago there was a TexMex restaurant in Torrance, Ca. call Barbarossa (any SoCal peeps remember it?). They had this incredible salsa called Anaheim sauce( I assume it qualifies as a salsa, anyway).Obviously named after Anaheim peppers, it was spicy as hell but super tasty. I’ve looked on line but don’t find anything that matches it. It was dark brown with the consistency more like a puree. The serving they’d bring you wasn’t more than a couple of tablespoons because you literally only needed a small drop at a time. I wish I could find or learn to make something comparable.

I live in the epicenter of Tex-Mex food and I like my own salsa the best. It only has four ingredients, is NOT cooked, and has no spices or herbs. I am a cilantro hater, so I never add it. Suggest you try my Puro San Antonio version as a baseline before you start adding lots of other ingredients. But, by all means, make it your own.

  • Take a whole lot (pint maybe?) of cherry tomatoes. If you have flavorful, fresh tomatoes, use those, but the ones from the grocery store do not qualify. Canned tomatoes of any kind? No.
  • Some raw, chopped yellow or white onion in proportion to the amount of tomato, maybe 1 part onion to 3 parts tomato, but YMMV.
  • One or two pieces of raw garlic
  • A sizeable chunk of jalapeno or one small serrano chile. Taste a sliver of the jalapeno to see how hot it is before you commit. (Jacques Pepin does this.) You won’t need to taste the serrano, as it will be hot.
  • Put all in a blender-type gizmo-- I have a Magic Bullet.
  • Pulverize, liquify, blend.
  • Add salt to taste somewhere along the line.
  • Chill and let it sit for as long as possible. It will be okay at room temp, but IMHO better chilled. It will increase in yummitude as the days go by.

Toast the whole cumin seeds first in a dry frying pan before grinding-- whole nuther taste.

:wave:t3: How ya doin’? Love the avatar!

In my defense, (not that you were directly addressing my recipe) yes, if you grow or can get ahold of fresh, ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes from a Farmer’s Market, then by all means those are better.

But if all you have access to is those crappy, mealy flavorless tomatoes in a grocery store, especially in the dead of winter, I think canned diced tomatoes are a fine alternative.

I will concede that point, but cherry tomatoes are available most of the time. The canned “salad” tomatoes do have great flavor compared to robot-android supermarket tomatoes. I have made my salsa with these canned tomatoes and with cherry tomatoes, and the latter are definitely better.

Hmmm… this calls for a scientifical experiment! Bowls of salsa at dawn (or noon, probably better), and giant bags of Mission chips (in the pink bag-- the best IMHO)! We will decide this issue or die on the playing dining field!

The title keeps making me think you pour that nasty Marshmellow ambrosia from the 70’s on top of your salsa, and I kind of gag a little.

Do only salsas made with tomatoes and onions count with you all? Because I don’t like those much. I make fruit salsas: mango, strawberry, etc. Yes, I use onions sometimes, but no tomatoes. If you ever tried mango salsa on grilled swordfish, you would understand.

Yeah, I definitely prefer noon to dawn. High noon is the traditional time for showdowns, isn’t it? :laughing:

That’s what I thought, but then, I like mustard on chocolate chip cookies, so what do I know?

For me, homemade salsa is basically a vehicle for using up surplus tomatoes from my garden. Making salsa with canned tomatoes just seems pointless. If I don’t have fresh ones, I might as well just buy jarred salsa from the store.

If I’m planning on eating it fairly soon, I’ll make a simple pico de gallo – diced fresh tomatoes, onion, peppers*, cilantro, lime juice, salt to taste.

*I grow Fresno chilies in my garden, which seem to have a heat level a bit hotter than jalapenos but less than serranos, so I use those.

If I have a whole bunch of tomatoes, way more than I can possibly eat before they spoil, I’ll make cooked salsa, pour it into jars, and freeze it. Basically a whole bunch of tomatoes, tomato paste (ok, that comes from a can), plus onion, peppers (I use the aforementioned Fresno chilies, but uses whatever you like depending on what heat level you want), cilantro (optional), lime juice, cumin, salt to taste. Simmer that for a while, then pour into jars and freeze.

I envy you having fresh tomatoes. But NO store-bought jarred salsa can compare with homemade done with cherry tomatoes.

Okay I’ve made that point and I’m outta here.

Mmmm.

I can’t stand capsaicin, and so I usually avoid anything called “salsa” because it usually has jalapeno peppers, and often green peppers and spicier peppers. Just a bad idea, all around. But I opened this thread on a lark, and your recipe sounds good. Thanks.

If it ain’t got habs, it ain’t SALSA!

My pico de gallo always includes a finely diced habanero. Otherwise it’s just tomatoes with onions.

I followed the recipe for Lancia’s Roseburg Salsa exactly; it’s sitting in the fridge now. In 23 hours I plan on trying it.

I like that the recipe was simple; I had everything but the dill weed already in the house. It took longer to open the Ro-Tel cans than the rest of the process combined; that was cool too.

This is the first time I have ever made salsa. I hope it’s good enough that I can tweak it until I get it just right for me.

Can someone talk about the difference between cooked salsa and cold-blended salsa?

See my link to a “restaurant style salsa” upthread. According to that recipe, cooking the salsa in a little oil is, quote: “important to develop the flavor of the salsa and helps bind it”.

Personally I like the raw, “garden fresh” style but,I’d Like to try that recipe.

Thanks! I missed that link when I perused the thread earlier; I appreciate you pointing it out for me.

Dill is a real surprise.

Some of you may be interested to see that there’s a very active reddit group for salsa called SalsaSnobs. Loads of recipes and photos:

https://old.reddit.com/r/SalsaSnobs/