Salsa Ranchera

The perfect complement to many Guatemalan foods

Salsa ranchera is used hot with several Guatemala recipes, such as envueltos, chilaquiles, huevos estrellados (fried eggs, sunny side up - sometimes called huevos rancheros when the salsa is on them, especially around Mexico). You can also serve it cold with nachos or totopos (two different terms for tortilla chips) or anything else your palate desires.

For any good tomato-based sauce, the first step is selecting quality tomatoes (tomate). For this recipe, we selected 10-15 medium tomatoes. As with any produce, especially in Guatemala, it's important that you wash them before cooking. Since we'll boil them, we just wash with tap water as a precaution for pesticides.

Select good Roma tomatoes for salsa ranchera Guatemala-style!
Washing vegetables is important, especially in Guatemala.

After washing, cut the tomatoes into quarters or slightly smaller and place in a big pot (pot size can vary depending on how many tomatoes you are going to use). We did not add water because the tomatoes make their own liquid.

Tomatoes cook better if you cut them in smaller pieces first in preparation for salsa ranchera
Quartered tomatoes ready to be added to the pot.

Select 2 or 3 medium sized onions (cebolla), quarter them, and add to the pot. Peel as normal - washing is not necessary since you're removing the peel.

Adding some onion to the mix with the quartered tomates

We used 4-5 whole cloves of garlic (ajo). Peel and quarter these and add to the pot. Like the onions, the garlic cloves don't have to be washed.

Quartering fresh ajo (garlic)
Quartered garlic ready to simmer!

Now you're ready to add the "spice." We used 5-6 jalapeño chile peppers and since we have small children in our house, we removed the seeds to take out some of the kick. Keep the seeds in or experiment with other types of chiles if you like it spicier. As it is, ours turned out mildly spicy, but not enough to make a small kid cry.

Jalapenos to add some kick to the sauce!

If you'd like to add a typical Guatemalan seasoning to your salsa ranchera, a spoonful or two of consomé will do the trick. It has a variety of spices, roughly equivalent to a chicken buillion spice mix. Otherwise, add two to three teaspoons of salt (sal) to taste, black pepper (pimienta negra), cilantro, crushed red pepper (pimienta roja), spearmint (hierba buena) or seasoning of your choice. We would also recommend adding a tablespoon of olive oil (aceite de oliva) to the pot.

Typical Malher Guatemalan consome.

Bring the mixture to a boil in its own juice and then let it simmer until it reduces to the consistency you want. We like ours pretty thick, so we let it reduce to about half the original consistency.

Salsa ranchera boiled to about half its original consistency.

If you want your salsa ranchera to be a little less chunky, let the salsa cool and then put it in a food processor until it reaches the desired consistency. It turns to liquid pretty quickly, so if you don't want it very runny, just pulse it for a few seconds.

Thinning the salsa out a bit.

If you accidentally make the salsa too runny, you can cut up a couple more tomatoes, add them to the pot, and let it reduce some to get thicker.

Storing the salsa:

Note: This is just our opinion - please consult a canning site for more details. We eat our salsa too quickly for it to go bad. If you want to store the salsa long-term or give as a gift (or any other number of uses not involving a refrigerator), you need to can it while it's hot.

This is what we do: While the salsa is still hot (minimum of 175 degrees Fahrenheit), get a funnel and pour it into the the jars. Screw the lid on tightly and turn the jars upside down until they cool. The change in temperature can create a seal so that the salsa will stay fresh longer. Store in a refrigerator until you use it (unless you have found a room temperature canning solution - we just don't want anyone to get sick).

If the salsa has already cooled, you can reheat it and try the above process or simply bottle it and keep it in the refrigerator, making sure to consume it within a reasonable amount of time.

Bottling homemade salsa ranchera
Canning homemade salsa ranchera

Salsa ranchera is used hot with several Guatemala recipes, such as envueltos, chilaquiles, huevos estrellados (fried eggs, sunny side up - sometimes called huevos rancheros when the salsa is on them, especially around Mexico). You can also serve it cold with nachos or totopos (two different terms for tortilla chips) or anything else your palate desires.

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