Proving that salsa is America’s favorite condiment no matter what part of the country you live in, we tasted three brands, from Fort Worth, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and greater Chicago. They are presented in alphabetical order.
El Gringo Loco Salsa
The “crazy gringo” in Warrenville, Illinois, outside of Chicago, makes Salsa Chikagwana, a veggie salsa with medium spiciness. It’s a beautiful-looking salsa, with whole white beans, diced carrots, onions, tomatoes and even the minced garlic clearly articulated. It could pass as a side dish, like a riff on ratatouille; but one bite, and you know that nothing this spicy is ever served as a side. It’s so thick, it doesn’t run, so would keep its shape mounded atop a chop or a piece of fish.
El Gringo Loco: A thick, beautiful, wall-to-wall veggie salsa. Product photography by Victoria Marshman | THE NIBBLE.
Green Mountain Gringo Salsa
Our next group of gringos makes four salsas in a traditional consistency, but with a flavor twist true to their roots. There’s apple cider vinegar in the recipe, which gives this line a touch of sweetness with no sugar added (and the rather unusual, but nice, flavor profile of apple cider vinegar). The Medium is rather mild, and the Mild is very mild. Hot is hot; roasted chile and roasted garlic are medium-strength. The product is called Green Mountain because it was created in the kitchen of a Vermont farmhouse in 1989, using ingredients fresh from the garden. As the business grew, it relocated to production facilities in North Carolina—still authentic gringos. Certified kosher (pareve) by The United States K. While you’re ordering, be sure to try the Tortilla Strips—not chips, but 1-1/2”x3-1/4” rectangles. They look great for parties! The chips are certified kosher (pareve) by the OU.
If you want a particularly mild salsa, try the Mild. The Green Mountain Gringo line is certified kosher.
Mrs. Renfro’s Gourmet Salsa
Mrs. Renfro’s is the senior statesman of the group, founded in 1940. The company began making Mexican foods in 1972, anticipating the changing American palate; it now makes 13 flavors of salsa, including an extra-hot Green Salsa. In addition to Mild, Medium and Hot, there’s the fruit salsa group (Mango Habañero Salsa, Peach Salsa, Raspberry Chipotle Salsa) and the savory salsa group (Black Bean Salsa, Chipotle Corn Salsa, Garlic Salsa, Habanero Salsa and Roasted Salsa). There’s a recipe on every jar, tailored to the flavor; and we’ve included some below. Mrs. Renfro’s salsas are very smooth—true “sauces,” almost like purées with vegetables added in for extra flavor and eye appeal. You can use these sauces on top of any meat or vegetable, and no one will think “salsa and chips.”
Mrs. Renfro’s has a flavor for everyone, and nice gift quartets.
Of particular note, the Roasted Salsa has an exquisite smoky flavor, like a thick, epicurean adobo sauce. For those who like it hot, the Mango Habanero Salsa adds a touch of sweet tropical fruit to a hot habanero sauce. Our first impression was of a very hot sweet-and-sour sauce—the mild Peach Salsa, by comparison, seemed like child’s play.