I’m switching gears up a bit today and moving over to trying out a salsa offering from High Octane Sauce Company. I’ve been stuck in hot sauce mode with them for a bit now, and figured I’d adjust the palate up a bit. What High Octane says that makes this different from the average salsa out there is that they take vine ripe tomatoes, fresh onions and Serrano chili peppers and then hardwood slow smoke of all of them at a low heat, which to be honest, usually makes tomatoes taste stupid good, so looking forward to seeing what we get here. For those that are new to the world of chiles, you probably have seen Serrano chile peppers in your grocery store, but might have been a bit timid about using them, but to be honest, they make for a really good halfway point in salsas, since they have a similar flavor to jalapeno that you’re familiar with, but a heat level that is more intense, but not quite in habanero territory, so if you’re making your own homemade salsa sometime, give a bit of a serrano a try, and you’ll see that it can be pretty adaptable to anything jalapeno based that needs a touch for fire in it. Today’s version of the Tire Smokin Salsa is their Medium, so it should be a good baseline to start up their salsa varieties with, and then I can move to the hot, and then eventually the Moruga Scorpion version.
What looks like a pretty basic list of salsa ingredients, we have Tomatoes, Onions, Cilantro, Peppers, Salt and Spices, doesn’t quite hint you in to the attention paid with slow smoking, and had I not read their details on the product, I wouldn’t have really assumed the Tire Smokin’ part of the labeling to be anything more than creative naming, so might be a plus for them to include this more on the label to help the consumer understand more what differentiates this from the standard salsa on the shelf.
The texture when shaking the jar is a fairly thin base, with what looks like an ample amount of chunks to it, but none of the chunks looks all that firm, so I don’t expect there to be much crunch to them. There is the characteristic black bits dispersed throughout that lets you know that there is some light char to some of the ingredients. To that point, I must say, regardless of the results of this review, kudos to High Octane for not using liquid smoke. I hate that stuff. Getting down to the color of it all, there is an overall brick red color to the sauce, with some brighter red chunks from the less cooked parts of the tomatoes and some presence to the green of the serrano and cilantro speckled throughout. Just removing the ring on the salsa, without removing the lid already lends a smoky aroma that makes you start thinking immediately of slow smoked brisket. The aroma once the lid is off is pretty intoxicating. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were downwind of a smoker billowing out a combination of oak and mesquite. Once you let the jar sit open a bit the smoke calms down some, and you start to pick up the subtle sweet from the tomatoes and some of the spices.
There is definitely a heavy presence of the smoke all over this salsa, and while it’s very flavorful and interesting, it’s a bit overpowering to the rest of the flavors in the mix. The heat level on this comes in a Mild, and sticks around some, along with a bit of a bite from that flavor of smokey black pepper. You’ll likely to be laid out by the smoke before the heat gets to you. I really do enjoy the smoked flavor coming through on this, but with it coming through so strongly, it leaves me desiring a bit more of a fresh and bright element to the salsa, and so if it had a bit of unsmoked tomato to it, and perhaps a touch of lime juice to it to balance out the smoke element, which after a bit of eating sort of takes on an oddly Slim Jim like flavor to it. I bet you right now, that if I mixed this as a base with some standard Pico de Gallo, I’d probably love the crap out of this. At this point, I really want to give this a Nominal for the efforts to utilize a truly slow smoked flavor, but with it tilting the overall balance of the flavors, I’m going to have to go with a Neutral rating at the moment. I’d really like to see this tweaked a bit to balance it out and then I think we’ll be singing a new tune on this one. In it’s current form, I will say that by using this to cook with, such as roasting chicken in the oven with it, it would be good stuff, but as a standalone salsa for use in the chip and dip sense, it’s just got a little work to go.