America's interpretation of Mexican food is quite diverse, ranging from Tex-Mex to Taco Bell. In all honesty, it can be difficult to characterize the complexity of Mexican food at just one restaurant, especially because the food varies across the entire country of Mexico. One defining food that seems to unify Mexico's diverse and proud culture is salsa. The presence of salsa is expected at almost every meal. Of all the variations that now exist at today's popular food joints, the authentic salsa de molcajete will forever be trademarked as Mexico's original salsa.
Learning how to make salsa de molcajete can help you gain an appreciation for the love and passion the Mexican people have for their food. It reveals the extent to which their history influences their meals. More than anything, salsa de molcajete just tastes incredible. Whether you are an enthusiast, looking for more authentic dishes to prepare, or simply culturally curious, this salsa won't disappoint.
The following will show you how to create salsa de molcajete:
- 4-5 Roma tomatoes
- 2-3 serrano peppers
- 1/4 cup of red onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- Salt and pepper
- Molcajete and piedra (stone used to mash)
- Frying pan
Time to Prepare:
- 25 mins
Step 1: Purchase Vegetables
Purchase all of the necessary ingredients from your favorite supermarket. While all of these vegetables can be found at just about any supermarket, there are several Latino markets that import fresh vegetables from Mexico for this very purpose. Some of these markets even import molcajetes. Take advantage of any trips to Mexico because they are much cheaper (on the order of $5-$15 depending on the size).
Note: Green salsa can be made with tomatillos. Other peppers, like the habanero and the chipotle pepper, can also be used. Before arbitrarily choosing peppers, however, it is important to research their different flavors and intensities.
Step 2: Prepare Your Molcajete
Season your molcajete by grinding dry corn and beans. New molcajetes are covered with loose rocks and dirt that will alter the taste of your salsa. Dry corn and beans, when ground, remove these fragments from the molcajete and "season" it for use.
Step 3: Grinding With Your Molcajete
Grind the piedra in circular motions against the molcajete. Whether you are seasoning, or preparing salsa, the technique is the same. Grinding in circles ensures the ingredients mix with the rock and extract its flavor.
Step 4: Prepare the Vegetables
Sear the onion, peppers, and tomatoes on high without any oil. By searing the vegetables before grinding, the vegetables become sweeter and gain a unique taste that complements carne asada very well. Vegetables may also be boiled in order to compliment other dishes. The order which the vegetables finish is as follows:
As each vegetable finishes, it can be added to the salsa. For the sake of time, vegetables that finish first can be ground while the remaining vegetables finish cooking. It is important, however, to mash vegetables with more fluids (like the tomatoes) last.
Step 5: Grind the Garlic
Grind the Garlic before any of the vegetables are ready. As mentioned before, use circular motions and focus on spreading the mashed garlic around the whole molcajete. The amount of garlic used is purely preferential. One clove is usually sufficient.
Step 6: Grind the Onion
Grind in the onion. You will know that the onion is done if it looks dark and caramelized. It helps to grind in the onion piece by piece, especially if you are planning on making a lot of salsa.
Step 7: Grind the Peppers
Grind in the peppers. The longer the peppers burn, the "cooler" they become. Flavor also intensifies with added heat. Similar to the onions, grind each pepper one by one.
Caution: When handling peppers, the oils can soak into your skin. Always wash your hands thoroughly after you are done. The oils can burn your eyes and mouth.
Step 8: Peel Tomato Skins
Remove the skins from the tomatoes. Since tomato skins are naturally bitter, it is important to remove them before adding them into the molcajete. Fortunately, applying heat separates the skin from the tomatoes, making it easy to remove. Once the tomatoes are done cooking, the skins can be removed with a fork or your hands.
Caution: Tomatoes can be extremely hot and can burn bare hands. Either wait until the tomatoes cool down, or use a utensil to remove the peels.
Step 9: Grind the Tomatos
Grind in the tomatoes. The salsa will gain its liquid consistency from the tomato juice. Therefore, its possible not all of the tomatoes you cooked will be necessarry. As before, grind each tomato one by one until the salsa gains a consistency you prefer. If You run out of tomatoes and notice that the salsa is still rather thick, you can slowly add water.
Many people prefer leaving chunks of the tomato un-grinded. Doing so gives the salsa a fresher look and personalizes the consistency.
Step 10: Add Seasoning
Add salt and pepper to your liking. Other substitutes, like garlic salt and lemon pepper, can also be used. This is especially useful if you didn't put enough garlic in at first. Unlike making salsa in a blender, it can be difficult to add more of an ingredient after everything is mashed. Using seasonings can help compensate for a lack of flavor.
Step 11: Enjoy!
Enjoy your authentic salsa de molcajete! While Americans often eat salsa with chips, Mexicans are more likely to use fresh tortillas. As mentioned previously, this particular salsa has more of a "grilled" taste, which is why it works great with carne asada and pollo asado.
Note: Clean your molcajete as soon as you are finished with your salsa. If not, mold can grow within the rock. Avoid using soaps and try to rinse thoroughly (reference above picture).