Extension Connection: It’s salsa time | CraigDailyPress.com

Extension Connection: It’s salsa time

Winning recipes from the 2007 Moffat County Fair salsa contest

Elisa Shackelton

— One of my favorite reminders that summer’s end is near is the smell of roasting chili peppers emanating from the local produce stand on Victory Way on Wednesdays.

Be sure not to miss the window of opportunity to buy Colorado-grown tomatoes, peppers and fresh or roasted chilies – the chilies especially seem to come and go quickly.

What’s a person to do with all those fresh tomatoes and chilies? Make salsa, of course.

Salsa is a generic term referring to a diverse group of chunky, usually highly-seasoned mixtures. Thanks to the popularity of Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking, salsa has become a staple in the United States. And it’s more than just a dip. Salsa is a spicy, fresh, chunky way to consume more low-calorie fruits and vegetables!

What are the key ingredients in salsa?


The type of tomato used profoundly affects the quality of salsa. Paste tomatoes, such as Roma, have firmer flesh and produce thicker salsas than do large slicing tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes usually yield a thinner, more watery salsa. Poor quality or overripe tomatoes will yield a very poor salsa.

In virtually all recipes, green tomatoes or tomatillos (also known as Mexican husk tomatoes) can be substituted for red tomatoes or mixed with them. Tomatillos do not need to be peeled or seeded, but the dry outer husk must be removed.


Peppers (chilies) range from mild to fiery in taste. Generally, the larger the pepper, the milder the flavor. Anaheim, Ancho, College, Colorado and Hungarian Yellow Wax are mild pepper varieties. Choose a mild pepper when the recipe calls for long green chilies.

Small, very hot peppers provide a distinct taste to salsas. Jalapeno is the most popular hot pepper. Other varieties include Serrano, Cayenne, Habanero and Tabasco. Use rubber gloves when you cut or dice these peppers because they cause extreme irritation to the skin. Do not touch your face, particularly around your eyes, when you are working with hot chilies. If you want a milder flavor, you can substitute bell peppers. Do not increase the total amount of peppers in any recipe. If you want more flavor, substitute a hotter pepper.

Acid ingredients

The acid ingredients in salsa help preserve it. Lemon juice is more acidic than vinegar, but has less effect on flavor. Use only vinegar that is at least 5 percent acid, and use only bottled lemon juice.

If you wish, you can safely substitute an equal amount of lemon juice for vinegar in salsa recipes. But do not substitute vinegar for lemon juice, because this substitution will result in a less acid and salsa that, potentially, is unsafe to eat.

Spices and herbs

Cilantro and cumin often are used in salsa, but you can leave them out if you prefer a milder taste. For a stronger cilantro flavor, add fresh cilantro just before serving.

Adapted from “The Scoop on Salsa” by Ann Zander, CSU Boulder County Extension Agent. For full article, visit: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columncc/cc000721.html

Winning recipes

1st Place Vegetable Salsa – Fresh Salsa (hot)

(Entered by Brandon Lyster)

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

1/4 cup diced fresh onion

chopped fresh jalapeno, cilantro, habanero pepper, and garlic to taste

2nd Place Vegetable Salsa – Colorado Salsa

(Entered by John Uncapher)

28 oz. can tomatoes

3 fresh tomatoes

1 fresh onion

1 handful cilantro

2 jalapenos

Garlic salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in food processor and blend. Put salsa in glass or plastic bowl and allow to sit overnight.

3rd Place Vegetable Salsa – County Fair Salsa

(Entered by Richard Oberwitte)

Roma tomatoes, chopped fine

White onion, chopped fine

Mixed sweet peppers (minis), chopped fine

Mixed bell peppers (large) chopped fine

Jalapenos, chopped fine

Roasted chilies, chopped fine

Cumin, coriander, onion salt, garlic salt, cayenne, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 packet McCormick’s salsa seasoning

1st Place Fruit Salsa

(Entered by Jared Perea)




Diced tomatoes


Sweet peppers

Diced jalapeno

Red onion

Green onion

Garlic salt

Lime pepper

Chili powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

2nd Place Fruit Salsa

(Entered by Kelly Camilletti)

1/2 cup mango, chopped

1/2 cup papaya, chopped

1/2 cup pineapple chunks, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 cup honey

2 T. lime juice

2 T. jalapeno peppers, crushed

1/4 t. sugar

1/4 t. salt

Mix all together. Let sit for one hour before serving. Eat with chips. Also really good with fish. Not a good thing to make too far in advance, as it gets soggy, like a fruit salad.

3rd Place Fruit Salsa

(Entered by Dan Sherman)

2 firm bananas

2 peaches, with skin on

1 tomato

2 garlic cloves

1 jalapeno

1/2 mango

1/2 cup honey

Splash of vinegar

All recipes from the contest are available in a small cookbook at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180. For more information, contact Elisa Shackelton.

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