Dinner at the Ranch

Tacos with pineapple salsa

Fruit Salsas

We like fruit salsas here, we make them very highly flavored, and left to my own devices, I would make them quite hot with chilies. Mostly, I don’t because not everyone is a fan of the burn.

For me, there’s nothing quite like the shockingly intense experience of a good, hot fresh chili. I prefer the flavor of fresh chilies, and many meals here will be served with a ramekin of finely-chopped fresh hot chili to be added as desired.

Salsas don’t have to be spicy, but they do have to be very flavorful. They are condiments, relishes, something to be used sparingly as a sharp contrast to the rest of the dish. You can’t be shy about the seasonings and expect the salsa to work.

Salt is the magic ingredient. It has a chemical reaction with the fruit and onion which breaks open the cell walls and releases their juice. It’s a good idea to let the salsa sit for 20 minutes or so, letting the ingredients exude and meld. Salsas with not enough salt seem flat and not integrated, the ingredients not harmonizing with each other. We always use either mineral salt (halite or Himalayan) or sea salt, never the purified stuff, which I think tastes nasty. I call it our “flavor-enhancing mineral supplement.”

Our recipe is simple and direct: fruit, onions, sea or mineral salt, chilies, lime or lemon juice, cilantro. They are what would be called in Mexican cuisine salsa cruda (raw sauce). These ingredients are blended according to the flavor of the fruit and needs of the dish they will accompany.

Fruits we have found work well as a base for salsa:

  • Papaya (both green and ripe)
  • Mango
  • Carambola (star fruit)
  • Pineapple
  • Tomato
  • Cocona
  • Tomatillos
  • Grapefruit
  • Orange

There are some things, sometimes used by other salsa makers, that I avoid adding to the salsa because they don’t keep well: garlic and cucumber. If you’re going to eat it all right away, it’s OK, but these ingredients will degrade the salsa and make it unpleasant to eat the next day. Avocado is also not a good idea: just make guacamole with it. Sometimes a leftover salsa will seem a little lifeless the next day–just add some more lime juice, and it will perk right up.

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