Guest Recipe: Fresh Salsa

This recipe comes to us from mom and chef extraordinaire Caryn, whose tomatoes are obviously enviable (read more to find out why).

If you have a garden I’m sure you and I share the same problem: all those tomato plants you started as sweet little innocent seeds have conspired to ripen all at once in the last few weeks. And youve likely got more than you know what to do with, right? So MAKE SALSA! A fresh, hot, delicious homemade salsa. I wait for and dream about it all year long because I tend to only make it in the summer when my garden is full of those aforementioned big juicy tomatoes. This year we have bunches of bright coral/magenta heirlooms of varying sizes that my darling 4.5 year old, Olivia just-had-to-have when we were picking out seeds in early spring. Because they were pink and that my friends, apparently makes all the difference in the world.

I first made my own salsa a whopping 12 years ago. My dad had planted far too many tomato plants and even with giving them away to friends and coworkers we had a TON left over and still ripening on the vine. (I think this is just how it works with tomatoes, isnt it) We like spicy stuff, my dad and I, and of course he was also growing jalapeños and habaneros in the garden. So logically, salsa seemed the one thing that could be made and would use up a decent amount of said tomatoes. I rummaged for onions and garlic, made a quick run to the store for lime and cilantro and spent the next 2 hours making a massive batch of fresh salsa. It was at least 18 cups worth. Pretty impressive actually. when my dad came home i think he was pretty skeptical. But really we all know there is absolutely NO comparison between fresh and jarred and fresh is way, way, way better. Always. And if you don’t trust this, make some. You’ll see. Anyhow, After a few bites he was floored and rightfully hooked! (Thank you, thank you very much.) and I’ve made the same exact recipe every single year since. Of course buying such vast quantities of tomatoes can get pricey, so if you have a garden full of your own that helps, but maybe it’s not so bad if you make smaller batches than i do… However, In my house a batch of about 8 cups doesn’t last more than 4 days. Max. We end up eating it breakfast, lunch and dinner till its gone. Because its that good. And when it is gone, there is always at least a cup or 2 at this quantity, of spicy liquid left over that you can totally use to marinade chicken or fish or shrimp (with some honey and extra lime and peppers, maybe some tequila or rum, coconut rum even) to add a little extra flavor depth in fresh tacos and not let it go to waste! Or even mix it into a southwestern or Mexican soup base! Which is exactly what I shall be doing this weekend when my present batch of salsa should be up!

If you don’t like super spicy salsa, you’ll want to go lighter on the pepper volume here. Now, In my opinion it’s the habanero that really makes this salsa. It’s so sweet and crisp and peppery and almost floral. Divine. I’ve made it without before and it’s just not the same at all. As i said, I like spice. A lot. And garlic. And cilantro. 😉 but I once passed this recipe to a friend and she used the same amount of every other ingredient but omitted the habenero and used only 2, de-seeded jalapeños and added a finely diced up cucumber. So theres an idea if you prefer mild. please adjust per your taste, but I strongly encourage you to use even just a small habanero. If I had to venture a guess for middle ground spice factor, I would start with (you can always add more if you decide you) 2 jalapeños and 1 small to med habanero with seeds and veins removed. They’re lovely. Trust me. It’ll be worth it.

Ingredients as I make it:

8 large, fist sized tomatoes, diced to about 1/8 inch little pieces. Make sure they’re very firm tomatoes, the squishy ones break down too easily I’ve found. Even some green on them is perfectly fine.
2 medium yellow onions, diced to about 1/8 inch little pieces
A whole bulb of garlic, crushed and chopped up tiny
4 whole jalapeños, I keep the seeds in. Chopped up nice and small.
2 med size habanero, also with seeds. Chopped up nice and small.
1.5 bunches of cilantro, washed and de-stemmed and roughly chopped
A ton of salt. Really you’ll need loads more than you might think. I just keep adding it till it tastes right.
A small light squeeze of half a lime. More if you want or you can omit all together. I almost always end up forgetting the lime and I never miss it.

Mix it all up, and if you can, let it set in the fridge for at least an hour or two, before eating. It’s one of those things that’s always, always better the next day.

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