Smooth my salsa
June 16, 2009 8:21 AM   Subscribe

What's the secret to replicating smooth salsa from the jar?

We've been eating a lot of Trader Joe's Double Roasted Salsa, and I'd like to try to make it at home. I'm a pro at pico de gallo, but when it comes to home-making salsa that is smooth and creamy, rather than large and chunky, I'm at a loss.

Since I'm roasting everything, I'd assume canned tomatoes are out, right?

Whenever I try to make this, I end up blending the roasted ingredients in a blender. This does a great job, er, blending it, but the consistency is still lumpy. Should I be cooking it after blending it?

Help me, Mefi cooks!
posted by nitsuj to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would say to definitely allow the salsa to cook down on the stovetop, and perhaps try using a food processor instead of a blender to really liquefy the mixture.
posted by scarykarrey at 8:27 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

A food processor works better than a blender when you're trying to make that kind of salsa. I also use it to make hummus. Run it for about a minute or two and it should become quite smooth.
posted by scrutiny at 8:28 AM on June 16, 2009

Response by poster: I should also note: the consistency out of the blender isn't really lumpy, but more mealy, I guess. Like the texture of cream-of-wheat, while most jarred salsas have the creaminess of catsup.
posted by nitsuj at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2009

I've never tried anything like this, as I much prefer my homemade salsa to have chunky freshness (good mefi username right there, me thinks). But maybe you could run your finished product through a fine sieve or some cheesecloth? It might make it too smooth, but I bet you could either readd some of the clumps or just find a better sieve (or whatever) by trial and error.
posted by dnesan at 8:36 AM on June 16, 2009

I've been working on a fire-roasted salsa myself, and I actually find I have better results using canned fire-roasted tomatoes rather than out-of-season tomatoes, both taste-wise and texturally. Muir Glen brand is widely available, but recently my nearest supermarket added a store-brand version that's just as good and half the cost.

When you roast your own, make sure you're using sauce tomatoes, Roma/plum type. Try oven roasting them, low and slow.

Definitely use a food processor over a blender. I don't know why, but it works much better.
posted by padraigin at 8:41 AM on June 16, 2009

I also prefer chunky so I don't do this, but I use a regular old handblender for hummus and if I do it long enough (like a minute or so) it ends up silky and uniform.
posted by rokusan at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2009

You can get a cheap little food processor for this--it'll work better than a blender. I think the one I have cost maybe $15 at Target.

A food processor may solve the problem so that no additional cooking is necessary. I do this with a roasted tomatillo salsa I make, which I prefer to have in a uniformly smooth and liquid/saucy consistency, and the only ingredients I cook are the tomatillos, which I roast at 450 or so for about 10 minutes. Everything else (cilantro, garlic, white onion, jalapeno, lime juice) is uncooked. If you go this route, it might help to give the less juicy ingredients a few pulses in the food processor first so that they are finely chopped, then take them out and do the tomatillo/tomato ingredient on its own for a good long while until you have the consistency you want, then add the rest back in and pulse it to mix.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:50 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am not an expert at this, but I would try using a food processor or immersion blender, and a bit more liquid than usual.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2009

Since you're roasting the tomatoes, I assume you're peeling them. But are you taking out the seeds? And are you seeding your peppers? I've found that no amount of cooking, blending, or food-processing will completely disintegrate seeds.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2009

A pass through a food mill will definitely give you a smoother texture. Also...I don't know about the Trader Joe's stuff, but a lot of commercial salsas have various emulsifiers or thickeners added to them. To get the same effect you might want to try blending some pumpkin seeds with the rest of your ingredients--they're traditional in several Mexican salsas, and they add a nice, creamy texture.
posted by neroli at 9:17 AM on June 16, 2009

A little bit of corn starch (dissolved in warm) water might make it less runny and suspend the larger particles.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:25 AM on June 16, 2009

I think I know what texture you're talking about, it's the texture you get when you thicken a sauce or salsa with tomato paste. As far as I know you can't buy tomato paste made from fire-roasted tomatoes, however tomato paste is just tomatoes that have been skinned, blended, and then cooked long and low until the tomatoes start to break down. You should be able to do this easily with roasted tomatoes, just put them in an uncovered pot on the stove on really low heat and cook an hour or two until it's reduced.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:59 AM on June 16, 2009

Hand blenders are relatively cheap and will liquify/smooth out almost anything. When my mom had jaw surgery I made her steamed cauliflower this way and a few minutes with the hand blender and it was silky and smooth.
posted by Kimberly at 11:13 AM on June 16, 2009

In my experience, canned tomatoes are fine for roasted salsa. Here's what I do.

Take 2 28oz cans of whole canned tomatoes. Drain them well but reserve the juice. Lay them out on a baking sheet with 2 jalapenos (or serranos, to taste). Broil (pretty close to the broiler) until blackened, turn and do the same for the other side. You're looking for them to get charred.

Then, do the same with one onion, thinkly sliced into rings, and 5-6 cloves of garlic (unpeeled). Transfer the onions/garlic/chile to one bowl and the tomatoes to another.

Puree your tomatoes in a food processor to however chunky you want them, then do the same with the onions/garlic (squash the garlic out of its skins). If you want, seed the chiles (I like to do the chiles separately and then add to taste, but it's up to you).

Mix it all together with a huge handful of cilantro, a good amount of salt (around a tablespoon, usually), and -- here's the secret ingredient -- a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Not lime juice.

Add reserved tomato juice and/or water until it's the texture you want, then refrigerate (it will thicken as it cools).

It took me a lot of trying to find a recipe that I like, but this is by far my favorite. I like that it takes advantage of canned tomatoes, which are so much better than most of the supermarket tomatoes you can get anyway.

P.S. Another benefit of this over pico de gallo (which I also make, and love) is that it keeps for a good week or two, and even freezes well (add more cilantro and water when you thaw it).
posted by rossination at 1:37 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

You must deseed everything. No tomato seeds, no pepper seeds, nothing. Not even a few.

Seeds don't blend or process, they fracture. You wind up with millions of little fragments of seed. It's these fragments that give it that mealy texture you describe.
posted by Netzapper at 2:12 PM on June 16, 2009

seconding the de-seeding, especially of the chili peppers

ms. marmalade & i make tomatillo salsa every year from our garden - we roast/broil all the ingredients for a good long while & then blend in a food processor - comes out as smooth as any i've tasted from a jar

(remember also that chili seeds are not digestible - they eventually come back out & for many folks this is a process of some discomfort)

is apple cider vinegar really a secret ingredient? it seems like a pretty common ingredient to many salsa recipes i've seen - we use it & lime juice together - nice & tangy! but now i want to make some with just the cider, some with just the lime & compare
posted by jammy at 12:23 PM on August 30, 2009

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