My quest for the perfect salsa began at our local Mexican joint, Montezuma Restaurant. The salsa there is PERFECT, and we even have a little nickname for it - "Life Blood." If I get sick with a cold, I go to Montezuma. I swear the stuff has healing properties. It energizes and refreshes as well as satisfies the deepest longings of my soul. Can you tell how much I like it?
I have been growing tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro in my garden for several years now, all in hopes of one day mastering the secret to the "Life Blood" that is Monezuma's salsa. After years of toil and strife, mixing and matching, planting and harvesting, I believe I have it as close as I will ever get. Here is my recipe for restaurant style salsa like the kind found at Montezuma Restaurant in Gettysburg, PA.
- 12-14 medium tomatoes (Variety isn't crucial as you will adjust for acidity and sweetness with other flavors. They may use Roma's, but I have used Early Girl, Jet Star, Beefsteak, and Big Boy.)
- 2 limes, 1 halved, 1 quartered
- 1 bunch of cilantro (whatever your grocery store typically sells as a "bunch"), cut into thirds
- 1-2 jalapenos, depending on how spicy you like it, halved
- 1-2 cloves garlic, depending on how many vampires you have to fend off, halved
- 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
- Sugar or Agave nectar
- Small food processor - small batches are the key to getting the taste exactly right
- Stock pot for boiling the tomatoes
- A slotted spoon to fetch the tomatoes out of boiling water
- Large bowl for the tomatoes to cool in
- Large bowl to mix the small batches of salsa
- Funnel, ladle, and a chopstick or drinking straw (I promise this will make sense)
- Various jars for refrigerated storage (we reuse old spaghetti sauce, pickle, and jelly jars)
Preparing the Tomatoes
Fill your stock pot about half full of hot water. Add a pinch or two of salt to get the water boiling faster. Rinse off your tomatoes. When water comes to a rolling boil, add about half of the tomatoes.
Fetch the split tomatoes out of the boiling water, and set them aside in one of your large bowls to cool for at least an hour or until you can handle them without burning your hands. Repeat as necessary.
"If you try to use canned plum tomatoes from the grocery store, we can't be friends anymore." - The Real Matt Daddy
Making The "Life Blood"
Wash and cut up all of your other ingredients ahead of time so that you can easily grab what you need. Your hands will be full of tomato juice in a minute, and that will not be a good time to be cutting.
This process is sort of messy, but it is necessary to make small batches so that you can adjust the flavors as needed. I start by adding the following to the food processor:
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and stem area cut off (This is why we boiled the tomatoes. Skinning them is much easier this way. I just let the cut off skins fall back into the large bowl of cooled, split tomatoes.)
- 1/4 of an onion
- juice from half a lime
- 1/2 clove of garlic
- 1/3 bunch of cilantro
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar (or 3/4 tsp of Agave nectar)
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 jalapeno (Yes, with the seeds you wimp!)
Once you have all of this in the food processor, pulse on "low" a few times to start blending. Add two more tomatoes. Pulse on "low" a few more times, then switch to "hi" for a few more times, and then run on low for about 10 seconds until all of the big chunks are gone. (Note: This will NOT work in a blender. The speed of the blades is too fast, and it gets all frothy, trust me.)
Pour this batch into your other large bowl.
Taste this batch WITH A CHIP, and use the following as a guide for making the next batch:
- Too SPICY - No jalapeno for the next batch
- Too SWEET - No sugar (or less sugar)
- Too ACIDIC (tangy or sour) - Only use 1/4 lime next batch or add more cumin/paprika/sugar
- Too EARTHY - Use less cumin/paprika
- Too GARLICKY - Skip the garlic on the next batch
- Too ONIONY - This almost never happens, but you could use less onion
- Too CILANTRO-Y - NOT POSSIBLE!!!
Once you have used all of your tomatoes (this recipe should make three small batches), stir together all three batches in the large bowl. Use the ladle to scoop your salsa into the jars via the funnel.
If there are flow problems with the funnel, use the chopstick or drinking straw to help things along.
Use any leftover lime wedges for the Coronas you will drink while eating your salsa and chips. Enjoy!