Is there a way to thicken fresh (uncooked) salsa?

steve22802July 30, 2008

Hi all,

I'm starting to harvest lots of nice tomatoes from my garden now and I made a tasty batch of salsa with some of them today. The only problem is that it seems a little watery and tends to come dribbling out of my tacos and fajitas so I'm wondering if there is someway to thicken it up a little. If I was cooking it I'd just use a little cornstarch but I'd like to keep the tomatoes chunky and fresh so I'd rather not heat it. Any ideas?

- Steve

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When I make salsa or pico de gallo I always, always drain the cut tomatoes in a colander before I mix them with the other ingredients. I do not remove the seeds, but I always drain. I suggest you dump it into a colander or scoop the salsa with a slotted spoon out of the liquid. You can then re add some of the cilantro or more jalapeños if you lose some.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 6:48PM
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What is making it watery if the tomatoes are chunky? If you aren't already doing it, make sure to scoop out all the seeds from the tomatoes, they can make it watery.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 6:50PM
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I agree. I skin the tomatoes, and seed, then salt and drain for a while before proceeding.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 6:51PM
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I'm sure that draining the tomatoes would help some. I also added a tblsp. of vinegar to the salsa to give it a little extra tang and of course that made it still more runny. But I think that as long as you are combining salsa ingredients that contain some liquid you are going to have a dripping problem unless you include some form of binder.

So I went and talked to my mom (the college Home Economics major) to see if we could find a solution. We looked at some freezer jam recipes and saw that they all called for Sure-Jell (fruit pectin.) I went to the Sure-Jell web site and among their recipes they had one for an uncooked Triple-Berry Smoothie that includes Sure-Jell apparently as a thickener/binder. So I added one tablespoon of generic 'Natural Dutch Gel *Just Like Sure-Jell*' that I had on hand from making strawberry freezer jam. (I only had a small batch of fresh salsa, about 1 1/2 cups.) I stirred it in and then let it sit in the fridge for an hour and then stirred it some more. After a few more hours it seemed to have thickened up nicely. As a test I put a small spoonful on a piece of paper and then slowly turned the paper sideways until it was completely vertical. To my delight the salsa just slowly oozed down the paper without any dripping! Problem solved! :)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 2:05AM
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I add a little bread crumbs, because I don't want to lose any of the lushious juice. Just add a little and let it sit, as the crumbs absorb the liquid it gets thicker.
It's not the vinegar that's making it happen, it's the salt...well ABD the vinegar. Draws the moisture out of the veggies.
And I don't want to lose that lovely liquid around the seeds, that'sw here a lot of the lycopean is.
The crumbs I use are ends of home made bread, run through the shredder in the cuisinart and then toasted. I always have a bag in the freezer.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 9:31AM
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I made a Mexican dinner Monday night to share with our neighbours. I made two salsas, both using fresh tomatoes. For one of the salsas I roasted the tomatoes first on the grill. And the other was made with tomatoes that I just seeded and cut up by hand. The onion, jalapeño peppers, cilantro were all cut up by hand as well. I like the texture better than when made in a processor. Neither were watery, although the roasted tomato salsa, had a more ""saucey" texture. The tomatoes had texture between cooked and uncooked, but the juice was thicker. Although made with the same ingredients, they had different flavours because of the roasting.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 9:54AM
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Mmmmm, that roast tomato salsa sounds great! How long did you roast the tomatoes and at what temperature?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 10:27AM
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What I've done in the past is to take a handful of tortilla chips, crush them as fine as I possibly can, and then slowly add them to the salsa.

It thickens it but doesn't affect the taste or texture that much.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 10:34AM
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Steve, it didn't take long to roast the tomatoes. They blacken quickly. I placed them on a hot grill and just turned them as they blackened. Just like I would if I were roasting peppers. The skins skip right off. Then I just coarsely chopped the tomatoes and add the rest of the ingredients. I'm a purist and only like tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, salt, pepper, fresh squeezed lime juice and lots of cilantro.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 10:44AM
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You can use the tomato skin in the salsa as long as it is only slightly blackened and not burned. It makes for a more traditional variation.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 10:56AM
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You can also add a small amount of tomato paste to the mixture.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 11:05AM
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Or puree a few of the fresh tomatoes to make an impromptu "sauce" that is thicker than plain juice. Just a few, leave the rest chunky.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 12:37PM
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You could also use Guar Gum or Instant Clear-Gel. (link attached) I have found fresh, uncooked salsa spoils rapidly so I wouldn't make more than my family could finish off in day or two.

Here is a link that might be useful: Guar Gum and Clear Gel source

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 12:53PM
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I've canned hundreds of pints of salsa so here's what I do & I think it's the BEST--I dunk my tomatoes in hot water & then in a cold water bath to peel them all--I use all the tomato, seeds & that wonderful juice--instead of boiling out all those vitamins trying to get rid of it,simply get a can of paste or more if you're making a big batch--I make 22 quarts at a time including all the peppers,onions,hot peppers, & tomatillos & I usually use about 6 sm. cans of paste--all you have to do is add the amt. of paste a little at a time stirring well as you go(on simmer) as it thickens you will reach your desired consistency, I like mine slightly loose --try it you'll agree it's the best way to keep all that tomato goodness!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 12:38PM
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