Can't Beat the Heat

Sales are hot for local salsa makers.

If there is a universal snack that most people can agree on, it’s probably chips and salsa. Long ago, salsa flavor choices were pretty narrow; a tomato-based variety seemed to be the only available option. Now one need only glance over the salsa shelves in any supermarket to see how much this standard in snacking has changed. Salsa has transformed beyond simple tomatoes, onions and bell peppers, and our palates eagerly welcome the many new available flavors.

Minnesota is home to some amazing salsa makers, with two Edina-based companies attracting attention for combining fresh, unique flavors with the wildly addictive capsaicin flavor (found in chili peppers) that we all love in a good salsa.

Double Take Salsa~

Bernie Dahlin and his Double Take salsas are a brand-new voice in the ever-expanding salsa world. His interest in creating delicious salsas began with sticker shock over the price of a single heirloom tomato he purchased at a grocery store. “I knew I could grow tomatoes far cheaper than paying $8 for a single one,” he says. Before he knew it, Dahlin’s passion for gardening resulted in such an excess of tomatoes and peppers that he began to make salsa. He brought his salsa to a cadre of grateful co-workers. Full bowls disappeared rapidly, and fondness for Dahlin’s creations inspired him to further develop a signature salsa, with the thick, chunky and spicy qualities he craved.

Double Take’s flagship variety is named Machismo and came as a result of intensive testing. “I probably made somewhere between 500 and 1,000 jars of this salsa before I was fully satisfied that it was exactly what I wanted,” Dahlin says. An avid home cook and craft beer devotee, Dahlin formulated his salsas with the same philosophy of the craft beer movement—the creation of a product with a distinct personality that stands out from the rest. “I want to raise the bar on salsa,” he says. “I use carefully chosen ingredients to create a better-quality product, and I’m finding, without a doubt, that people are happy to pay for higher quality.”

Dahlin is adamant that the making of his salsa is about his love and passion for creating a top-notch product. With a full-time job in the mortgage business, making salsa is only his hobby for now. “It isn’t about making a ton of money off my salsas,” he says. “I like to make the best possible product I can and grow the business on my own terms. Right now, it’s all me; I make the salsa. I bottle it. I apply the labels and I sell it. It’s done 100 percent how I want it done. It’s time-consuming, but I know it’s being done the right way.”

Machismo salsa is easily the most popular of four varieties available in the Double Take Salsa line-up. With a chipotle kick, Machismo (with the black label) is hot, but not blazing or overwhelming. The white-label Machismo is more sedate, but Dahlin warns that none of what he makes can be considered mild. “The white-label Machismo is ‘less spicy,’ ” he says. Double Take’s Aces & 8’s corn salsa is sweet yet still spicy. One of Dahlin’s biggest sellers, the fourth option, Bewitched, is a black bean version, thick and hearty with a hint of lime. You can find the entire line of Double Take Salsas at the Linden Hills Co-op and the Herbivorous Butcher. Also look for Double Take Salsa at Jerry's Foods in Edina.

“At the farmers markets, when people ask what I’m selling, I tell them I sell happiness in the form of salsa. And when they enjoy what I sell, naturally, they want more of it,” Dahlin says.

Sabrosos Salsa~

Sandy Maloney of Sabrosos Salsas began her foray into the world of salsa making through a catering business she began to help support her family. She utilized recipes from years of salsa enthusiasm. Catering clients would clamor for any leftover salsa and asked her repeatedly for her recipes. She began making salsa in her own kitchen with her son, Kris, and first sold her salsa at a craft fair, keeping her job as an interpreter for Hennepin County. These days, salsa selling is Maloney’s full-time job. For her family, salsa was never an afterthought; it was the ingredient that made their meals shine. “Our batches are hand-crafted with great intention to bring excellent flavor to everyone’s dishes, as well as being wonderful to just eat with chips,” Maloney says. “We are very particular about selecting the finest tomatoes and produce for our salsas.”

Sabrosos, which means “mouth-watering” or “super delicious,” is made exactly the same way as its humble beginnings in Maloney’s home kitchen. She has sold her salsa locally at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the Centennial Lakes Farmers Market and in Maple Grove, as well as at other local festivals.

Maloney spends part of the year in Texas and has received extensive attention for her four varieties of salsa and hot sauce, including a recent first place win with her salsa verde in the Fiery Foods Challenge Zest Fest Competition, earning a Golden Pepper. Sabrosos salsa verde is a vibrant blend of tomatillo and jalapeño, and is the original salsa created by the company. Maloney tirelessly peddles her salsas and hot sauce around Texas at barbecue and chili contests, at local rodeos and also at the Texas State Fair. Maloney says her salsas will enhance any recipe, and she especially recommends using the salsa verde in enchiladas, including in a favorite recipe available on the company’s website,

Other mouth-watering recipes by Maloney offered online are for huevos rancheros and a simple but delicious guacamole, made by adding her salsa verde to chopped avocado.

If your tastes for salsa value flavor over heat, Sabrosos salsa norte is your best choice. The salsa roja boasts the burn of serrano chiles, a well-balanced mix of both flavor and heat. And for the die-hard chile enthusiasts, Sabrosos carries a hot sauce suitably named En Fuego that uses scorpion peppers, which rank a whopping 2 million on the Scoville scale. “This hot sauce will simply set your mouth on fire, but the flavor is incredible,” Maloney says. “A little goes a very long way!”