It’s a type of music and it’s a dance. Eons before it was dubbed a sauce by the Spanish conquerors using their Spanish word salsa, it was a Mayan condiment. Anthropologists claim evidence of it dating to 3,000 BC, making it the same age as the earliest ring at Stonehenge. Salsa is yet another contribution to the world’s plate and palate from the Americas, classically made with new world ingredients, tomatoes and chilies. In the interim centuries, intrigued cooks across many cuisines have adopted and adapted not only the tomato and the chili peppers, but the concept and use of salsas into their own local foods. Shirt-tail cousins of the condiment have popped up all over the globe and include relishes, chutneys, raitas, chimichurris, mojos and kachumbaris.
A certain Father Bernardino de Sahagủn, a Franciscan missionary, traveled to Mexico with Cortez in 1529 where he spent 30 years developing what is now known perversely as the Florentine Codex. He entitled this 12 volume, 2,400 page work “The Universal History of the Things of New Spain”. It is this codex which contains the first documented use of the Spanish word for sauce to describe several local condiments: the universal tomato and chile version and one with mushrooms.
Salsas are traditionally made fresh and raw. Modern food regulations have spawned the use of cooking and preservatives to extend their shelf life, though in most cases it greatly diminishes their zesty flavor. A few cooks decided to char or roast one ingredient and then another. There are probably as many salsas as there are fruits and vegetables. Common modern interpretations use tomatoes, chilies, onions, tomatillos, cucumbers, black beans, papayas, cilantro, mangos, corn, avocado, limes and garlic. Chefs, however, love to push the envelope and have played with pineapple, rum, bananas, mint, peaches, chocolate, nuts, figs, apples, tequila, cheese, basil, marjoram to cite a few. I even found a recipe for Rattlesnake Salsa, though fortunately, the serpent was not a required ingredient.
Salsas are used for more than tortilla chips. Plop a spoonful atop a hamburger or a hot dog. Dowse a piece of grilled chicken or skirt steak with one. Offer a fresh salsa with tacos or as an companion for a roast pork loin. Our website offers a plentiful supply of salsa recipes and ideas including: Honeydew Salsa, Peach Mint Salsa, Apple and Husk Cherry Salsa, Cranberry Lime Salsa, Corn Tomato Salsa, and more. But for today, we’ve got a bright new version of this ancient condiment, Blueberry Salsa which has been touted as being terrific with chicken.