USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘salsa’



My informant’s family’s Salsa recipe.

A can of tomatoes (16oz)

A handful of cilantro from the bushel

A little less than a quarter of an onion

Two Serrano Peppers, unstemmed

Take all the ingredients above and blend them together. Once at a good consistency, not too watery, able to see slices of the cilantro in it, sprinkle the top with garlic salt to taste. Blend again. Serve with tortilla chips.



This definitely has the feeling of definitive folklore, as it has been passed down from generation to generation, family to family, race to race, even making adjustments for people’s tolerance levels of spice. The recipe has now become the salsa recipe for so many different people and walks of life. For my informant in particular, what started as a way to taste and remember home, has turned into something that he has inadvertently passed along to his friends, who use it all the way on the other side of the country with their family and friends.

The salsa recipe seems to be more than just a recipe but also a story of this family. It is fascinating that they have kept the recipe, and passed it down to all of the parents, children, and children’s friends, swearing that the recipe is theirs, even though they do not even speak to the person who brought the recipe into their life. I cannot help but feel my informant’s grandmother remembers her estranged son, the same way my informant remembers him, every time she makes this or eats this. It is almost as though she is keeping his memory and presence alive because after all there are so many salsa recipes out there; why stick with the one that surely causes the most heartache?


Folk Recipe – Milpitas, California

Hot Salsa Recipe

Ingredients: 3-4 cups tomatoes (chopped & seeded), 1 ripe mango (peeled & chopped), 1/3 medium onion (chopped), 1 clove mashed garlic, 2-3 jalapeno peppers, 1 habanero pepper (chopped & seeded, optional – heat lovers only!), 1-2 T tomato paste, juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (optional), and 2 T balsamic vinegar.

Combine all ingredients except habanero in glass or metal bowl. Stir gently.  If using the habanero pepper, prick pepper and cook in boiling water for about 5 minutes, until soft.  Wear latex gloves. Remove from water and take off flesh, discarding membranes & seeds. Chop and mash as finely as possible.  Add to salsa and stir.  Clean work area & discard gloves. Let salsa sit for at least one half hour before eating (to let the flavors fuse).  Serve with tortilla chips.

The informant stressed that the salsa is always made with fresh ingredients straight from a personal garden.  The salsa is made at the height of tomato season in the summer for the best flavor.  Also, it is made when people come over to socialize.  It is usually made by her and her daughter as a bonding mother-daughter experience.

The practice of the women making the food is very common.  It seems expected that a food preparation practice would be a female bonding experience since women are stereotypically seen as the dominating figure in the kitchen.  I think that the salsa recipe reflects a Mexican influence that inevitably happens when living somewhere like California where there is a wide variety of authentic cuisines available.  Additionally, the weather in California contributes to this folk recipe, since one could not grow such flavorful fresh tomatoes, peppers, etc, in their own backyard without a hot environment.