Why did my salsa verde gel?
So I bought a bottle of Herdez brand salsa verde. I found it lacking and decided to modify it. Its listed ingredients are tomatillos, onions, serrano peppers, salt, cilantro.
I added diced onion (about 1/2 cup), diced poblano chiles (1/3 cup), minced garlic, and chopped cilantro. I also added about 1/3 cup of water to thin it out.
After sitting in the refrigerator overnight, I found that the salsa had completely gelled. Straight out of the jar, the salsa is pourable. I even added water. Which ingredient do you think caused this? I imagine something is bringing pectin to the party but which one?
I guess I wanted more bright flavors from it. The salsa verde I eat from my local taquerias usually have visible bits of onion to bite into and distinct pieces of cilantro that provide a pop of herbal freshness. It was just a bit too homogenous and one-note. The label lists tomatillo, onion, serrano pepper, salt, cilantro. So that already indicates that there's less cilantro than what I was looking for since it's listed after salt. For me, the flavor was predominantly that of tomatillo. I like the simple list of ingredients (no xantham, sugar, starch, or preservatives), I just wanted more of the secondary players (onion, peppers, cilantro).
How do you enjoy your salsa verde?
I know what you mean by bright taquería salsa verde and it can't be found in a jar. La Costeña isn't going to provide it either. If that's what you want you have to make it yourself.
There are a few ways of making salsa verde that I know of. You can poach the tomatillos, which makes them not so astringent but leaves them still quite fresh. You can also roast them under a broiler or in a pan or on a comal as is done in Mexico, which gives some nice roastiness. Either way you generally blend with onion, chiles, and cilantro. And sometimes the salsa is fried after being blended, which develops other flavors though it takes away the freshness.
For the bright and fresh effect, poaching and blending is the way to go. If you want onion chunks I would briefly sweat them and add them after blending.
The Herdez ingredients are actually bang-on. Tomatillo, onion, serrano chile, cilantro, salt -- that's all a salsa verde needs. The rest is just a question of how they're brought together.
Tomatillos have quite a bit of pectin. When I make salsa verde it will often set up in the fridge from the pectin.
As a table sauce it's better served at room temperature IMO.
If you're not crazy about Herdez look for La Costeña. They make a decent enough salsa verde, though of course it's not as good as fresh.
re: Soul Vole
Thanks Soul Vole
I agree that it's better at room temperature. But the curious thing is that the unmodified Herdez salsa was refrigerated yet still pourable. (I opened it, tasted it, and then put it in the fridge for several days.)
So it was only after I added the ingredients and water that the salsa set up. Could it be pH or salt dependent? (I forgot to mention I added salt and lime juice.) Would the onion or chilies add pectin?
Ah, I see. Yes, acidity does affect gel formation (in fact I believe it's necessary), so I bet it was the lime juice that made the difference. I don't think the other ingredients would contribute much pectin.
It makes me wonder why it doesn't gel normally. I guess it's just a question of pH in the formulation? But then I don't add lime juice when making it from scratch and I've had gelling.
I never thought about it before but now you've piqued my curiosity. :)
I've been puzzling over the same since you posted, but had nothing to add. Now that you say lime....but sources say more pectin in the peel than the citrus fruit.
Can't help but blame the lime anyways lol.
Couple of links:
Thanks DuchessNukem. Your links were helpful. I've never made any jams or jellies so I have limited experience with pectin. Your links did inspire me to learn more. As it turns out, it WAS the lime juice! So your blame was appropriately directed.
"Pectin solutions form gels when an acid and sugar are added. The acid will
reduce the pH of the solution and cause the carbohydrate molecules to form junctions.
From these junctions a network of polymer chains can entrap an aqueous solution. The
sugar increases junction formation. The pectin makes the gel, and the low pH and the
amount of soluble solids adjusts the rigidity. The optimum conditions for jelly strength
are 1% pectin, a pH of 3.2, and a sugar concentration of 55% (by weight)."
Institute of Food Technologists, IFT Experiments in Food Science Series
Copyright Purdue Research Foundation. All rights reserved. 2000