Types Of Mexican Salsa
Mexican salsas can be served fresh (uncooked) or cooked. They can be hot, spicy, sweet or tangy. Like the cuisine of any nation, the ingredients vary with regional availability and preferences. There are more than 30 chiles in Mexico: The chile of choice can be the mild, fruity ajis, the medium-spicy serranos, jalapeños and their smoked form, chipotles, or the hot-hot habañero. Seasonings can include cumin, herbs like cilantro and fresh lime juice. Add-ins vary widely as well. In the northern Mexican states, cooks use aji, annatto, avocado, cassava, chipotle, corn, cumin, fruit, habañero, jalapeño and salt cod.
What many of us think of as salsa is salsa fresca or salsa cruda, a fresh sauce served as a condiment with a Mexican dish, or with a basket of tortilla chips at the beginning of the meal or at the bar. While there are many variations, a typical fresh salsa is made of chopped tomatoes, chiles and onions, generally seasoned with cilantro and lime juice. The degree of heat will vary.
The fresh red salsas are called salsa cruda, salsa fresca and pico de gallo, which are similar with small differences (see the Salsa Glossary for details). The tomatillo-based salsa verde is also a salsa fresca (although it can be cooked, too), as is guacamole, made with avocados, tomatoes, chiles, onions and cilantro.
While fresh salsas use fresh tomatoes and fresh green chiles, cooked salsas use roasted tomatoes and roasted or dried chiles. When the sauce is jarred or canned, the ingredients must be cooked briefly at a high temperature to make the product shelf-stable. Canned salsas can be smooth or coarsely textured, thick or thin, mild or hot. A cooked salsa is different in texture from a fresh one, but it is no less delicious. In fact, cooking opens the door to a lot of creativity in the use of ingredients—like cooked beans, corn, artichokes and olives—that would not find their way into the classic fresh sauces.
Continue To Page 3: Varieties Of Jardine’s Salsa
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