I do not have the recipe for Matt Carpenter’s magic salsa. The National League’s best hitter is keeping that a secret, saying he may even begin selling it one day.
But I’ve got a pretty good idea what the recipe looks like.
Over the last few days, various news stories and Carpenter’s own Instagram have revealed elements that go into the salsa. I’ve poured over every detail, constructing an elaborate bulletin board of documents and photographs, connected by various colored strings. I haven’t slept. My family relationships are frayed.
So here are the clues:
It was in interviews after Saturday’s doubleheader that Carpenter first started discussing the salsa, saying “I wouldn’t call it chunky. This is the sweeter version. Not as hot.”
We also started to see some images of the canned salsa posted to Carpenter (and other player’s) Instagrams. It’s clear that it’s heavily tomato-based, and we can also see just how “not chunky” it is.
But the real motherlode of clues came Monday, when Carpenter cooked up a fresh batch of the salsa while on the road in Cincinnati. First, he posted some pics as he was working with the raw ingredients:
I see tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and garlic. All pretty standard salsa ingredients, but the world of salsa is large and contains multitudes. So it’s nice to have these basic elements confirmed.
Then he posted this as the salsa came together on the stovetop:
It’s here in Cincinnati!! Let’s go birds! pic.twitter.com/Cq15YLbPWr— Matt Carpenter (@MattCarp13) July 23, 2018
At this point, any rational person could deduce a ballpark recipe for the #RallySalsa. We’ve seen (at least some of) the ingredients, and we know he simmers them together on the stove. But I am not a rational person.
We know that the vegetables for the original salsa came from a magical garden planted at Carpenter’s house by Adam Wainwright, who is almost certainly a wizard. Can we figure out what ingredients are in that garden?
One clue might be the ingredients that Wainwright plants in his own garden. We know that his garden has grown from hobby to full-on commercial venture, but back in 2014, he posted this photo of his harvest:
And, here's my final harvest from the garden this year. And we're carving that pumpkin! Pablanos,jalapeños, bells pic.twitter.com/QJ4bKo3d0r— Adam Wainwright (@UncleCharlie50) October 25, 2014
It seems reasonable to assume that Waino planted something similar to his starter garden for Carpenter. It’s clear Waino is into several pepper varieties beyond just the jalapeños we saw Carpenter with earlier. And I think that might be significant, because I’m guessing Carpenter held back some ingredients in the photos he shared. I predict he’s using a second, milder pepper - likely a poblano.
We don’t see any char in Carpenter’s salsa, so he’s not roasting his tomatoes. But I’m guessing there’s at least one other secret seasoning ingredient, and I’m going to bet it’s a little cumin to add some body.
The one other clue that’s dangling out there is the description of the salsa as “sweet.” He says it’s not particularly spicy, and “sweet” could be just another way to refer to that. And if you simmer tomatoes, you will get some degree of sweetness. But I suspect there’s a little something more there to kick up the sweetness.
Armed with what we know about the salsa - several of the ingredients and the fact that it is simmered, along with some elements I strongly suspect, I went out to look for existing recipes in this general ballpark.
I make salsa from my own garden every summer, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I’ve never simmered it before. My process is typically: Bring in whatever’s ripe, throw it all in the food processor, dip a chip in it. So I wanted to check out some published recipes that used this simmering technique. Often, you’ll also find several very similar recipes which can tell you you’re on-track. And that’s exactly what I found.
There’s a recipe from the Boston Globe as well as this one, which does a good job of documenting the lineage of this type of salsa, which may be sometimes called salsa fresca or salsa de jitomate. (And I found several other similar recipes as well.)
At this point, I’m ready to throw out my best guess as to the recipe for Matt Carpenter’s salsa. Obviously, it’s salsa - so use whatever you want, vary the ingredients however you want, etc. But if you want to replicate the magic sauce that is powering Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals, this is my suggestion:
Matt Carpenter’s Rally Salsa (as deduced by Ben Godar)
2 fresh tomatoes
Half a yellow onion
5 garlic cloves
2 whole jalapeño peppers
1 poblano pepper (or green pepper)
1 cup cilantro leaves
Pinch of ground cumin
Juice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1⁄4 cup water
In a stock pot, heat two tablespoons of neutral oil over a medium flame. Dice the onion, garlic and peppers by hand or in a food processor. Saute them in the stockpot along with a pinch of cumin until fragrant, around five minutes.
Dice or blend the tomatoes, then add them to the pot along with the lime, sugar or honey, and water. Add salt to taste. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the salsa gets too thick, add a bit more water.
Remove the pot from the stove and either allow to cool or place in an ice bath to cool rapidly. If the mixture is too chunky, blend again in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender. Add finely diced cilantro. Taste, adding salt and/or sugar if necessary. Serve.
I’ll say again: Using this technique and recipe as a starting point should get you in the ballpark of Matt Carpenter’s #RallySalsa. Use your own fresh ingredients if at all possible. The heat of your peppers in particular will vary widely, so fine-tune to your own ingredients and tastes.
Here’s what mine looked like. I’m pretty happy with how I matched the look of Carpenter’s salsa, though I think I used a bit more cilantro and could probably have done a second blend to decrease the chunkiness.
So what do you think? Let me know if you’ve got other theories on the recipe.