an explorer's club of Wisconsin foods and recipes

A Little Cinco de Mayo in a Jar

salsa 001

This month the Wisconsin Bites tasting panel took on salsa!  As one taster, Pam Joyce of Jacksonville, FL, said:  “We enjoyed a Mexican fiesta!”  Not a bad tasting panel to be on.  Pam was joined by Cindy Foltz of Beloit,  and Mark Waeghe of San Francisco.  The panel and their friends and families tried 3 salsas:  Chip Magnet of Eau Claire; Curt’s Salsa of Frederic; and Ol’ Snort from Lodi.

Chip Magnet Salsa

Chip Magnet

Curt's Salsa

Curt’s Salsa

Ol' Snort Salsa

Ol’ Snort Salsa

These three choices could lead you to believe that making salsa is a couple’s dream.  All three are made by husband-and-wife teams.  Ol’ Snort is made by Violet and Earl Slack — who own Slack’s Jelly Farm.  Violet started making jellies and jams in 1954 and the Slack business was born.  They’ve added Ol’ Snort salsa, available in six flavors:  mild, hot, sweet corn, black bean and Bogberry (cranberry).  Almost all the varieties are made with a tomato base, chunky onions, peppers, celery and seasonings.  You can buy Ol’ Snort at stores or on Slack’s website.

Then along came Curt & Betty Hollister in 1994.  They turned their cabin in Frederic into a salsa-making business:  Curt’s Salsa.  But one million jars later, they are still hand-crafting their salsa in small batches with fresh ingredients.  Curt’s Salsa is available in six flavors, including Mild, Triple Hot and Black Bean Chipotle.  The Triple Hot has won a Scovie Award – an annual competition recognizing the top fiery food products in the world – in the habanero category.  You can find a list of stores who have Curt’s Salsa on shelves on their site, or buy it there.

In 2011 Alexis and Jim Lucas started their Chip Magnet Salsa (along with relishes, jams, jellies and butters).  The couple tries to use all local ingredients and keep them GMO-free, vegan and gluten-free.  They offer 19 salsas from Mildly Delicious and Cilantro Lime to Fiery Fruit and Thanatos Ghost Salsa (named after the ghost pepper that’s in it).  Chip Magnet is found predominantly in Northwestern Wisconsin and Minnesota, but check Chip Magnet’s site for where to buy.

So the tasting panel team “chipped in” and made their verdict in a very close race, judging the mild salsas.  It seems everyone has a different salsa preference — thin, chunky, preferred herbs, hot, mild.

Wisconsin Bites Favorite

Wisconsin Bites Favorite

But overall, Ol’ Snort Salsa was deemed the winner, by a nose.  “The aroma is a nice balance of tomato and peppers,” according to a taster.  Another said of the chunky texture:  “I liked the taste and texture; it feels good eating it.”

Chip Magnet and Curt’s Salsa came in tight behind, however.  Tasters loved the “beautiful homemade appearance with fresh taste and great texture” of Chip Magnet, along with its aroma.  Curt’s Salsa was the favorite among thin salsa lovers, who liked the “fresh subtle tomato smell and fresh taste.”

It just goes to show that we all have our ideas of what salsa should look and taste like.  So, if you don’t feel like whipping up some salsa for Cinco de Mayo on Sunday, just grab a jar, some chips and enjoy!

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