A secret salsa recipe revealed
By Su LumMy friend Jeanne Ritter makes the world’s best salsa from a secret recipe given to her a quarter century ago. Over the years I would slather over her frequent quart-jar gifts and, in turn, my co-workers would slather over my leftovers (wonderful as the salsa was, I couldn’t eat a QUART). “Is this JEANNE’S salsa?” Whomp!Five or six years ago, Jeanne announced that she was retiring from salsa making on the grounds that it was too much work. Panicked that she would take the secret recipe to her grave, I begged her to teach me how to make it, which we have done annually ever since, except for one year when we took a pass (too much work!) and regretted it for the next 12 months. Last year we recruited my granddaughter Riley into the club, who joined us again this year. And every year I’d say, “Please let me print the recipe,” and Jeanne has finally relented. We only make enough for ourselves, so there’s no one to keep it a secret from.Making salsa is easier now than it was when we started – back then you had to go to Grand Junction for a bushel of tomatoes, a bag of roasted chilies and other ingredients. Now you can buy everything at the Farmers Market.On the other hand, we’ve found that pints are better than quarts, which means twice as much canning.Here is the recipe for one batch of Jeanne Ritter’s Salsa, which yields about 24 pints:25 tomatoes, peeled (drop them in boiling water) and chopped – not too fine, not too chunky, say into eighths.10 roasted chilies, seeded and peeled (mind, your garbage disposal will not like the peels) and chopped the size of a thumb joint. The heat of the chilies depends on your taste – at the Farmers Market they have mild, medium and HOT.Preferably in a Cuisninart, chop 5 medium onions, 8 cloves of garlic, and (separately, using rubber gloves and holding your breath) 3-6 raw jalapeño peppers. The more jalapeños you use and the more seeds that slip in, the hotter the salsa will be. Use 3 jalapeños with NO seeds if you have a tender mouth.Put all this chopped stuff into a big pot and add 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1-1/2 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon garlic salt and 1 large can (29 oz.) of tomato puree. Bring to a roiling boil.Meanwhile, you’ve sterilized 24 pint-size canning jars by boiling them for 12 minutes in another big pot or pots, along with the lids and screw tops that come with the jars (available at Clark’s Market and in Glenwood Springs).Ladle the boiling mixture into a sieve so it won’t be too runny, and ladle the mixture in the sieve into the sterilized jars, then pop on the lid and screw on the tops.You then cook the jars of salsa, covered in boiling water, for 50 minutes. This is the longest part of the process (it’s faster to cook 12 quarts than 24 pints because your pots can only hold so many jars), but it doesn’t take any effort – it’s like waiting for bread to rise.You get to the end and fish the last jar out of the last pot and think, “PHEW!” and go to bed knowing you have made the best salsa in the world, something no amount of money can buy.The next morning you look at those beautiful 24 jars of salsa and realize that you have two jars per month for the year if you don’t give any of them away, and you realize you only spent a couple of hours on the actual chopping and canning and the rest of the time was just waiting for things to boil?Su Lum is a longtime local who knows a thing or two about addiction, and has found that two canners making three batches, one and a half at a time, is about right for personal consumption and a few very special gifts. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with queries.