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.