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Salsa adds degree of warmth to the winter season ahead

It's nearly time to bid the garden a final farewell, but not before one last batch of salsa.

Salsa is no modern invention; it originated with the Inca people. (Before football!)

The combination of chilies, tomatoes and other spices can also be traced to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.

The Spaniards first encountered tomatoes after their conquest of Mexico in 1519-1521, which marked the beginning of the history of salsa (but not tostada chips; that came later). Aztec lords and ladies com-bined tomatoes with chili peppers, ground squash seeds and ate them mainly as a condiment served on turkey, venison, lobster and fish. Yum!

Alonso de Molina is credited with ascribing its name in 1571. (Had a nice ring to it, salsa, as does his.)

Charles Erath of New Orleans was the first person in "salsa history" to begin manufacturing the blend of tomato and spices. "Extract of Louisiana Pepper, Red Hot Creole Peppersauce" was introduced to digestive systems (yow!) in 1916. A year later, La Victoria Foods started Salsa Brava in Los Angeles.

Sauces subsequently began bubbling up across the nation, as did its popularity. Salsa chefs meld non-traditional ingredients to tingle taste buds, but the traditional tomato-based salsa remains top dog, in most minds.

And it adds "a splash of summer" when winter winds howl.

Shirley Lieffring of Menaha shared her recipes for salsa (in large or small portions) and tomato relish, which can be combined.


By Shirley Lieffring

Dip tomatoes in hot water to remove skins

4 cups (X3) chopped tomatoes

2 cups (X3) chopped green peppers

2 cups ((X3) chopped onion

2 tsp. salt (or to taste)

3 cloves garlic (or more)

1 cup white vinegar

3 12-oz. cans tomato paste (I use 2)

10 jalapeños (I use 4 and seeds from 1)

Combine in a large kettle and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Fill pint jars and process 30 minutes in boiling bath.

(Shirley's daughter mixed the salsa and relish (below), earning approval from Mom. "I make a batch of each, mix them and can them. It's a lot of work, but good.")

Her family prefers homemade as opposed to the ones in the grocery, she said.


Tomato Relish

By Shirley Lieffring

18 medium tomatoes peeled and chopped (8 cups)

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup green peppers

1 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup salt

2 cups white vinegar

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. pepper

Put vegetables in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and mix well. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again.

In a large kettle, bring vinegar, sugar, mustard seed and pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Add vegetables and return to boil. Put hot relish in pint jars and seal. Process 20 minutes in hot water. Makes 4 pints, and is very good with pork.

End of the season fresh salsa

By Candy Parks

Dice the following:

Tomatoes - remove seeds and drain

Green pepper - seeded

Jalapeño peppers - seeded and deveined (Note: for more heat, leave veins and some seeds)

Other garden peppers - seeded and deveined (Banana, red etc., but if using, control for heat)

Cucumber - seeded

Carrot - finely diced

Plenty of onions


Fresh garlic - ½ dozen or so finely diced

Black olives drained and diced

Add some zucchini and kohlrabi if it's available

Add a splash of olive oil (to carry seasonings), salt, pepper, diced fresh parsley, chili powder, cumin powder and cilantro (be sparing as cilantro will take over) and oregano, to taste. Seasonings will enhance.

Mix together and refrigerate; use within five days.

There is no recipe for this. This is something I have always done at the end of the season to use up the ex-tras. This is very fresh, crunchy, colorful and tasty with tostada chips and as a tapenade (hors d'œuvre, spread on bread. Sometimes it is also used to stuff fillets for a main course.)

The fun thing about this salsa is you build it to your taste. If you don't like a vegetable, leave it out. If you don't like a spice, leave it out. You can add a splash of summer to winter in Minnesota - even when the mercury reads 20 below zero.

You are in control; have fun.

Note: When I make this fresh salsa, I dice everything with a knife. The food processor over-chops and you lose the texture.

And when it comes to seasoning; heat can always be added. But once you take it out; it's in.

Taste after several hours or overnight in the fridge and add more heat or seasonings.

Ruthie's Mexican Salsa

By Jean Ruzicka

Long ago, a recipe that's weathered a couple of decades, and still stirs mom-make-that requests, was presented at a "cooking class" at which I was a student. I have presented this at a variety of occasions, the recipe still earning can-I-have-the-recipe? requests.

Ruthie's Mexican Salsa

4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped

¼ finely chopped green pepper

¼ cup salad oil

2-3 Tbsp. canned, chopped green chilis

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. salt

2 sliced and seeded jalapeno (the recipe says "op-tional:" I say mandatory

Freshly ground pepper

Combine the ingredients and chill several hours or overnight. Serve with chips or as accompaniment to eggs.

Pass the recipes, please

With autumn's arrival comes the longing for soups and stews. We welcome submissions.

E-mails may be sent to, dropped off at the Enterprise or mailed to Park Rapids Enterprise, PO Box 111, Park Rapids, MN 56470.