Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Best Salsa I Ever Tasted. Yes, EVER! A snack attack remedy from Cleo Coyle via Nurse Judy Mac

Yes, I do realize that saying something (anything) is the best ever, EVER, is hyperbole. But trust me, today's recipe lives up to my hype. The recipe is not mine, but comes from a follower of this blog: Judy McIntosh, aka "Nurse Judy Mac," which is what her patients call her.

Nurse Judy McIntosh: 
"This is me at Don Pablo's 
for my birthday last October. 
I like the Don's food, but I'd much 
rather have my own salsa!" (Cleo agrees.)

You can read more about Nurse Judy in her fun, funny, (and inspiring) bio below the recipe. (She went back to Purdue at age 32 for her nursing degree and went back for her Master's at age 52.) 
     As for her salsa, Marc and I have tasted many versions of salsa fresca over the years: restaurant pico de gallo, homemade, bottled. This beats the de gallo out of them. It's so good that you'll want to eat it with a spoon, but use tortilla chips for the very best Rx to a snack attack there is.
     Thank you, Nurse Judy, because of you, Marc and I are most definitely eating with joy! ~ Cleo

Fun Foodie Trivia

According to Wikipedia, the term "pico de gallo" is Spanish for "beak of rooster," and at least one food writer claims the name came from the way it was originally eaten, with thumb and forefinger, which meant reaching for the condiment looked like the pecking of a rooster. Others say the name could be a simple reference to the rooster-red color or the minced texture of the sauce, which resembles bird feed. 

P.S. The winner of the official FDNY T-shirt will be announced on this blog at 11:45 PM Wed. (9/19). To see the original post, click here - and thanks to everyone who entered!

Nurse Judy Mac’s 
(Best Ever!) Salsa

Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
A note on the recipe from Cleo: With beautiful, ripe, end-of-summer tomatoes so plentiful (and football season upon us), I hope today's post comes in handy for you. As mentioned above, it came to us via Judy, already canned for the winter, and that's a wonderful way of preparing it, in large batches that can be saved and eaten over the year or given away as gifts (see Judy's note below)...and eat with joy! ~ Cleo

Nurse Judy McIntosh,
who does not wear the
sombrero on duty,
or so her patients claim.
A note on the recipe from Nurse Judy: I am an experimenter in the kitchen, trying this, trying that, and developing some recipes that I am proud of. This salsa recipe is one of them. I don't like hot (even mildly hot) peppers and I REALLY don't like cilantro, but I love garlic and onions and more garlic. The salsa tastes wonderful fresh and just as good when canned. I hope you like it as much as my family, my friends, and I do. I have a friend who's always begging me for salsa. Her annual birthday present is 6 jars of salsa. She takes me out to lunch, I give her salsa! I will tell you that as good as the salsa is canned, the fresh will have you eating it with a spoon. I know because I end up doing it all the time! Enjoy! ~ Judy Mac

Judy Mac's Salsa Recipe

To download a PDF version of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes about 3 quarts (6 pints) of salsa


3-4 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled 
       (Note: Judy says she gets the best results with the Roma variety. 
       You'll need 3-4 pounds of fresh tomatoes. Use the ripest you can find. 
       Fresh tomatoes will give you the best tasting salsa, but in a pinch,
       you can use top quality, 
canned whole tomatoes.)

4 fresh bell peppers (1 each green, red, orange, yellow), 
        seeded and cut into chunks

1 extra large or 2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into chunks
        (Note: Judy uses Vidalias)

1/2 to 1 cup diced garlic 

White vinegar (1 cup or more, to taste)

Salt (1 teaspoon or more, to taste)


Step 1 - Scald fresh tomatoes in boiling water until skins start to split. Carefully remove very hot tomatoes from the water and place in a colander and under running cold water to make peeling easier. Cut out the stem end and transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Let sit and allow clear juice to separate from the fruit. (Judy drains and saves this juice for soups or broths by freezing.) Repeat the draining of the tomato juices 2 more times to concentrate the flavor.

Step 2 - Using your food processor's pulse mode, process the cooked, peeled tomatoes until you have the desired texture for your salsa, whether chunky or smoother. Pour the results into a large bowl.

Step 3 - Process peppers and onions, separately, with pulse mode until you see the pieces chopped into the size of small peas. (Note: Do not over process or you’ll end up with pepper/onion soup!) Pour into your large bowl with the tomatoes. Add garlic (adjust to your own tastes) to bowl and stir until well mixed. 

(Judy does not add cilantro or hot peppers to her salsa, however, if you'd like to add these ingredients, process them and place them into the bowl at this stage.)

Step 4 - As Judy says, "This is where you finish the salsa according to your personal taste." Start with 1 cup of the white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the salt, add to the salsa and mix thoroughly. Taste test. Add more vinegar in small amounts until you get a small "bite" of vinegar when you taste the salsa. Adjust salt according to personal taste.

Canning/Jarring the Salsa: 

Method One, Fresh Packing: Fill sterilized quart or pint canning-quality (Mason) jars with salsa to 1/2-inch of top of jar, wipe edge clean of any salsa, put new (sterilized) canning jar lids and rings in place and finger tighten the ring. Place in refrigerator. As the salsa chills, the jars will seal and stay "canned" until the seal is broken and the lid is removed. This is fresh packing.  

Method Two, Hot Water Process: If you'd rather not lose space in your fridge to jars of salsa, Judy suggests that you "hot water process" the jars of salsa in boiling water. You can then store the Mason jars at room temperature indefinitely as long as the lids remain safely sealed. To read more about the process of properly canning/jarring salsa, jump to this Wikihow site page by clicking here.

Awesome Guacamole: 

Judy's final note: "You can take out some of the salsa base before you add the vinegar and add it to fresh avocados with lime juice for an awesome guacamole. Another way to do this is with the canned salsa: simply drain out the excess juice, add lime juice (I prefer Key limes), and avocados."

About Judy

Born in Arkansas with a Mamaw that could cook an old shoe and make it taste wonderful! Learned to cook early out of necessity because the cooking gene skipped my mom. She could paint, sing, sew, quilt, and swing a hammer with the best but she just could NOT cook! I went to Purdue University to become a veterinarian and met a dark haired young man under a piece of mistletoe at a Christmas party. Our first kiss was 30 minutes long! So, of course, we eloped, two and one half months later, over Spring Break, 38-1/2 years ago. (That first kiss is why we always have mistletoe up at Christmas!) 

John and Judy McIntosh

Fast forward three kids, lots of cooking, growing gardens, going back to Purdue at age 32 for nursing, cooking, working, back to school for Master's at age 52, two granddaughters, more cooking, more working, and here I am.

~ Judy

Judy asked me to add
this very kind note...

(Thanks again, Nurse Judy! ~ Cleo)

"I discovered Coffeehouse Mysteries with On What Grounds in the fall of 2003 and fell in love. A book based on the love of coffee! I inhaled the first book and began buying (gasp) whole bean coffee and grinding the beans and discovering what fantastic coffee tasted like. Since that time I have bought every book the minute it became available, buying new varieties of coffee, cooking new recipes, and waiting impatiently for the next Coffeehouse Mystery. 

"I've passed the books to my daughter and my mother, taken fabulous new coffees to work to educate the taste buds of night shift nurses who had become used to drinking coffee that had the smell and consistency of old tar. Along the way I have converted a lot of nurses to what REAL coffee tastes like and I will never drink generic coffee again. Life is much too short to drink bad coffee! And I still wait impatiently for the next new Coffeehouse Mystery so I can roam the streets of New York and learn to love new coffees and new recipes."

Your biggest fan from Day One

Nurse Judy Mac

A Brew to a Kill: A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a national bestseller in hardcover

To see the recipes in my latest
culinary mystery, click here.

Read with joy!
~ Cleo

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

To get more recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or learn about Cleo's books, including
her bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit her online coffeehouse: CoffeehouseMystery.com


  1. What a lovely and romantic story, Judy! You've put a smile on my face this morning.

    Your salsa sounds great. I went through a phase when I made all my own salsa -- and then I upped the use of hot peppers and learned the hard and painful way to wear gloves when handling them. Ouch! Not a sign of redness, no indication whatsoever that my hands were "burned" but I won't forget that pain! I still don't understand why we can put something in our mouths and love it, but if we touch it, it's painful for hours. Go figure!

    ~ Krista

    1. Krista - Ha! Yes! My favorite hot pepper mishap was touching my eyes before thoroughly washing my hands. Woops and ouch!

      ~ Cleo

  2. Really looks tasty, and lunch is near...

    I'm no fan of cilantro either, but I can go with spicy and will make a batch with one tiny hot pepper added.

    Thank you Judy McIntosh for this fantastic recipe (and I love your hat)!

    1. Speaking of lunch, I just enjoyed more of this salsa with half a burrito. Good stuff.

      Thanks so much for dropping by to comment (and I love her in that hat, too)!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. One of my friend's husband loved my salsa but he complained he wanted it hotter (he was from Texas, what can I say). I asked him how hot and he said as hot as I could make it. So I did. I took Scotch Bonnet peppers, and wearing gloves AND goggles, I took the top stem off and processed the peppers, seeds and all, in my processor (no way I was going to hand chop those!) I put a heaping tablespoon in each jar of regular salsa, sealed them and delivered them. My friend said that he was waiting with a bag of chips, grabbed a jar, popped it open and took a huge bite of salsa. I guess it was a little too hot. He practically fell over backwards with smoke pouring out of his ears! After that, he would put 1 small spoonful of the "hot stuff" in a jar of regular salsa. He never did ask me to make hot salsa again.

    3. Nurse JudyMac - You and Clare Cosi would get along just fine. Love that story. AND (even funnier for me) the other day, I pointed out a new addition to our local grocery store's produce section. You guessed it, Scotch Bonnet peppers. Bully for you on the goggles. The only thing I'll add is that our friends from India would likely have eaten that JudyMac hot pepper special and pronounced it good eats.

      ~ Cleo

  3. My youngest granddaughter, Lexi, insists she be taken to Don Pablo's on her birthday so she can have her picture taken in the hat. She still trying to figure out how to smuggle the hat out of the restaurant!

    1. Tell Lexi to bring a Hoosier cap and try the old switcheroo. (Okay. That *may* not work.)

    2. Considering the hat is almost as big as she is, I think they'd notice a hat on 2 legs walking out the door!

  4. Cleo, Thanks so much for introducing us all to Nurse Judy Mac. Our family has met its fair share of nurses during the last year and it is such an honorable and truly compassionate profession. Thanks, Judy! Your love story is wonderful...

    I am a cilantro lover...I read that it is one of the few foods that people either love or hate. I'm a lover, for sure. I look forward to giving your recipe a try. My husband makes a pretty sweet pico de gallo so I think a taste test is on!!

    We do agree about how terrific the Coffeehouse Mystery series is and how it is always a long but well worth it wait between books.

    Thanks Cleo and Nurse JudyMac!

    1. Nanc - What a kind comment, thank *you* for dropping by today. I agree that Judy's love story with her husband (mistletoe and all) is an adorable one and (absolutely) HUZZAH to the nurses of the world. If I could, I'd pour a fresh, hot cuppa joe for each and every one of them.

      LOL on pico de gallo taste test with your hub! On the other hand one of the reasons I like Judy's recipe is its versatility. Good, basic ingredients with options to tart it up with cilantro and/or heat it up with chili peppers, whether your poison is habaneros, jalapenos, or Scotch Bonnets. (Ole!) Just don't forget the goggles (see comments above)!

      Eat (salsa) with joy!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Nurse Judy knows salsa. Sounds fabulous!!

    ~Daryl aka Avery

    1. She does indeed. Frankly, I've never canned salsa before, but Judy has made a believer of me, mainly because I can taste how very good it is; not only compared to bottled, but also how much better tasting it is than our typical throw-it-together salsa with a few chops of the knife. The latter version goes bad so quickly in our fridge, too, whereas her version stays fresh for days after opening. Long story short: we're sold and the recipe is a Keeper.

      Thx for dropping by today, Avery/Daryl. And I'm looking forward to your new recipe post going live here at midnight tonight!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Thank you, everyone, for the thumbs up reviews of my salsa. I hope y'all (there's my Arkansas roots coming through) enjoy it as much as my family does! And no, I do not wear that hat to work, but I plan on wearing my new turquoise cowgirl boots!

    1. Nurse JudyMac - I think we need to see a photo of you in a nursing uniform and those cowgirl boots! ~ Cleo

  7. Just a shout-out thanking Nurse JudyMac for this most delightful chain of posts tonight. I'll be heading to bed with a big smile because of everything I just read. I'm not a regular "from scratch" cook but I'm gonna give this the old college try. It just sounds too good to pass up. I tip my hat (whatever the size!) to you Nurse JudyMac - what an inspiration you must be to your kids and grandkids loving education and always wanting to learn. Be well....Adrienne in MN

    1. Adrienne - thank you! I couldn't agree more. She's an inspiration...including a culinary inspiration. I've never canned salsa before, but it's such a great way to put up summer tomatoes for the winter that I'll be doing it every year with her recipe.

      Cheers and thx for dropping by...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter