Chip Walton | Chop & Brew
Sometimes you have an idea that comes out of nowhere and ends up being one of the coolest things you’ve ever tried. Our most recent one of those was smoked salsa. Elsa and I have been making batches of our Red Salsa recipe all summer long; we love the recipe, but it was starting to wear a little thin on our taste buds. We were thinking of ways to jazz it up a bit. That’s when the lightbulb went off above our heads – smoked salsa! We decide the best way to get smokiness into our salsa was to smoke the tomatoes.
Our goal here is to expose the ingredients to a quick blast of smoke, but not actually cook them – as to keep some of that fresh-from-garden flavor intact. Some may argue that a more traditional offset smoker is required for this, but we feel the process worked well with our Weber kettle grill set up for indirect heat and smoking.
For our first attempt, we went all-in, smoking not only the tomatoes, but also the chopped hot peppers, onions, and garlic cloves. The salsa turned out amazing with a wonderful, robust smokiness. Our second batch also turned out great, but this time we only smoked the tomatoes and garlic (photo above) and left the onion and hot peppers in their raw unsmoked form. This is a really fun method to play around with.
In addition to adding a smoky flavor to the vegetables and resulting salsa, we find that smoking the tomatoes glazes the jelly-like interior a bit, which seems to then gelatinize the salsa slightly, thickening it in the most lovely of ways.
- See basic vegetable and spice/herbs ingredients from Chop & Brew Red Salsa recipe
- 40-50 charcoal briquettes
- 2-3 hickory chunks – you can use and experiment other other smoking wood as well: apple, mesquite, oak, etc.
Prepare any vegetables and ingredients you plan to smoke. Cut tomatoes in half. Place cut-side up in cast iron skillets (our preference) or other grill-safe pan or sheet. Chop other ingredients — hot peppers, onions, garlic — and place in with tomatoes.
Prepare grill for indirect heat and smoking. I place two bricks on my lower grate, leaving about 1/3 of the lower grate sectioned off for coals; this creates a sort of firewall. But any two-zone heat setup will work fine. Start your charcoals using chimney. When coals begin to turn white with ash, pour into grill to create two zone for indirect heat. If fire is too hot, cover with lid and close vents for a few minutes to get it check.
Add wood chunks to coals. Close grill with lid and allow ingredients to smoke for 20-30 minutes, adjusting vents as needed to keep a slow rolling smoke.
Remove from grill, allow to cool, and use as you would the regular ingredients in Chop & Brew Red Salsa. Smoked tomatoes are also good for pasta sauces, lasagna, and other dishes that call for tomatoes and tomato sauce.