"Runny" Hot Salsa

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Mexican food experts, please tell me what I'm doing here - I don't know. I'm relying on memories of my mis-spent youth visiting bars in Tijuana (too dangerous now, I think) and the delicious street-vendor tacos there. The "tacos" were carne asada chopped steak from an iron skillet over a wood fire. The meat was put on a fire-toasted soft tortilla, drenched with whichever of two "salsas" you wanted ("You want it hot for a Mejicano or hot for a gringo?") then rolled up in the tortilla. Asking price was a quarter but they'd take a dime.

I've duplicated that "salsa" with good success, in fact I can it in pint jars. My wife calls it my "runny salsa" or "capsaicin soup". I hand-chop, fine, some very hot peppers seeds and all (we have a permanent indoor/outdoor pot of Maui Purple Peppers), some cilantro, and some onion, and boil those for 10 minutes or so in water. I stir that so every jar will get its share of tiny pepper, cilantro, and onion pieces, then spoon it into pint canning jars and boil and seal them. Once opened, a jar stays in the 'fridge until it's used up.

To use this, I stir to get the solids mixed in then dribble it with a spoon over many Mexican dishes, especially carne asada anything. GOOD!

So, how authentic is this kind of salsa - if it is at all? Are there any fine points about it that I'm missing? Thanks.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Ozark, you have lots of views but no posts which is surprising. I thought for sure a boat load of aficionados would post to this thread. It's a really good question. Though hardly a Mexican food expert, having lived in the state with the largest non-border Mexican community (Georgia) for over forty years, I have some experience. I also have some experience traveling through various states in Mexico over a period of many years. That said, I believe I have posted to your other salsa threads before, perhaps on the tomato forum? Hopefully my weigh in is helpful.

Salsa is not a specific food. Not even one with slight themes and variations. It is a different mixture with different preparations that is very regional. Within each region there are many salsas. It's like asking, "Is my salad authentic?" Well, are you making a Caesar salad, a salad Nicoise, a Waldorf salad or a tuna salad? It's all good.

I want to comment on your canning method. Are you pressure canning your mix? Peppers in and of themselves are non-acid vegetables. They need to be pressure canned. Unless you are adding them to a tomato base or are pickling the peppers with salt and vinegar you and your family are at risk for food poisoning. I know there are recipes out there that nay say, and you maybe have been using your method for years, still it only takes one jar of botulism to kill you or your family. I do a lot of home canning and would not ever consider water bath processing peppers.

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Aha. Thank you, MaypopLaurel, for pointing out that my canning in a water bath of such a non-acid mixture could be dangerous. I read up on food poisoning, and while it's rare in home-canned foods such as this (much more likely in sausage and such), it is possible. Not something we want to risk.

Fortunately, I have only three pint jars of canned "runny salsa". I'll discard those and go back to making it fresh each time.

I picked my potted Maui Purple Pepper plants clean last week, washed all the peppers, chopped them up in a food processor, and froze them. The result was chopped, flavorful, frozen, FIRE. For supper this evening I got into the freezer, chipped off a spoonful of frozen hot peppers, and threw it into a pot of blackeyed peas cooking on the stove. Mmmmm.

Rather than canning, anytime I want this kind of salsa I can add some of the frozen chopped peppers to a boiling pot of water along with fresh cilantro, onions, and garlic - that should be safe enough. Thanks again.

Olympia, WA

One way to deal w/ the possible botulism threat is to boil product for 10 minutes after removing from jar. The toxin is heat sensitive, whereas the botulism spores are not. My mother pressure canned everything - but I still boiled the corn, mushrooms, or even canned tomatoes. If you are going to worry about vitamins, just pop a vit pill.

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

I must disagree about boiling being the solution to the threat of botulism poisoning. Though the incidence of botulism poisoning is admittedly rare, only fifteen percent is related to consuming food. Twenty percent of reported cases come from wound contamination. If jars are not canned properly and you handle contaminated jars you can contract botulism through any open skin wound or eyes. When I discover unsealed jars I dispose of the product (with gloves on) down the toilet. Don't just toss it out in the yard. That puts the bacteria in your soil. It should be noted that chilies are among the foods commonly recalled. If not properly canned they can also carry salmonella.

Ozark, your openness to learning proper canning techniques is commendable. For best instruction you might fine the Ball Blue Book helpful. It is seasonally available at Lowes because they carry canning supplies. Another great source, which I think is where the Ball book gets its direction is here http://nchfp.uga.edu/ I check every year before I get started to see if there are any changes to their recommendations.

Happy canning!

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