Since May is national salsa month, we’d like to devote a little attention to this universal of condiments that attracts sweet and savory alike.
Spanish for sauce, salsa was the creation of a 16th century Spanish priest and missionary, Alonso de Molina, who anointed the Aztec combination of tomatoes, chiles and ground squash seeds salsa. Then, the sauce was eaten with seafood, venison and turkey.
Bottled hot sauces made with cayenne chile peppers first appeared in Massachusetts in 1807. In 1941, La Victoria Sales Company mass-marketed the first salsas in the United States – red and green taco and enchilada sauces. By 1946, the company sold ten different sauces, including green chili salsa and red salsa jalapeño.
Between 1985 and 1990, salsa sales grew by 79%. Between 1988 and 1992, the percentage of American households buying salsa increased from 16% to 36%. By 1991, U.S. salsa sales surpassed even ketchup sales!
Locally, Garden Fresh Salsa was pioneered by CEO Jack Aronson, under the tutelage of our own Jim Hiller. It’s now one of the nation’s best-known salsas. At Hiller’s food fairs, you’ll find other local salsa entrepreneurs, including Global Warming Salsa from nearby Novi.
What Is Salsa?
What we know as salsa is really salsa fresca, a mixture of fresh chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeno or Serrano peppers. But really, salsa refers to a variety of vegetable-and-spice mixtures used to enhance flavor and depth in food.
American-style salsa’s main ingredients are tomatoes, chiles, onions and lime juice. Textures vary from a smooth puree to finely-chopped (pico de gallo) or semi-chunky salsa cruda.
Did you know…
- Salsa Verde or “green sauce” is made with chiles, tomatillos and cilantro, and is a much thinner sauce than its tomato-based cousin.
- Salsa de Arequipa hails from Arequipa, a southern Peruvian city in the Andes Mountains. It is made with aji chiles, shrimp and hard-boiled eggs and sometimes even nuts or cheese. It is served with potatoes, an indigenous crop in Peru.
- Salsa di Mani is an Ecuadorian peanut sauce made with chiles, onions and milk or butter. It’s served with cheesy potato pancakes called llapingachos.
- Salsa isn’t just about the savory – use fruit for delicious surprise pairings for meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Some examples: mango avocado salsa, pineapple chipotle salsa, roasted strawberry and tomato salsa or even watermelon jicama. Because they require little prep time and no cooking, fruit salsas are perfect for picnics and barbecues.
Don’t miss the Hiller’s salsa demo, where you can taste and compare several brands of salsa. In every store, Saturday, May 30!