Pico de Gallo Starter

I am nuts for Pico de Gallo (pronounced pico de guyo). Spanish for Beak of the Rooster, it is considered Mexican around here, but I read that it is widely used on Caribbean and Latin American tables.

This condiment is typically made with tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno (and sometimes poblano) chiles, fresh cilantro and lime juice. Other chiles may be used in Caribbean, Central and South American countries, but those Jalapenos are very popular and easy to grow.

Ripe tomatoes do not ferment well at all. They turn into a mushy discolored mess. However, with this starter those ripe diced tomatoes will last a lot longer that you expect. I used to see fresh Pico spoil in the fridge before 10 days passed. With this starter I have never seen it spoil.

Fermentation for 14 days or so brings a delightful savory flavor to this condiment. Sharing that flavor with ripe diced tomatoes will impress any tongue.

With this recipe my guide is that if the raw concoction tastes awesome the fermented product will be exquisite.

Cut the veggies into chunks for salt-down. Sweating the vegetables with salt for an hour or more will result in all of the brine you need to start your Pico. If you need more brine you must use distilled water, not tap water.

Pico de Gallo starter

  • 6-10 Jalapeno chiles

  • 1 or 2 Poblanao chiles

  • 2 small or 1 medium yellow onions

  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

  • Half a bunch of fresh Cilantro

  • 2 tbsp of lime juice.

  • 1-2 tbsp Natural Salt.

  1. Toss the chiles, onion, garlic, sprinkling with a liberal amount of natural salt. Cover if desired and rest at room temperature for 1 to 6 hours.

  2. Chop the cilantro and set aside, dry, in another container.

  3. After the veggies are reduced, toss everything (including the lime juice) into a food processor and chop course.

  4. Pack the chopped Pico into a quart jar and press down to see brine. Place a fermentation weight on top.

  5. Cover and ferment at room temperature for ~ 14 days.

Notes: Unlike many ferments, this one does not bubble very aggressively, owing to the cilantro, which also helps to preserve the color of the chiles. It is a good idea to tamp down the mix every couple of days to make sure there are not too many CO2 pockets in the mixture, then re-seal.

The starter is good for a year or more in the fridge. If you want to preserve it longer or share it with friends, hot-water canning is a perfect way to preserve it. Just bear in mind that this will kill the live cultures that benefit your digestive system. All of the minerals and nutrients will still be there.

To make Pico de Gallo for your table, mix three parts tomato to one part starter. I add lime juice, black pepper and MSG to taste.

This recipe shamelessly purloined from the book Fiery Ferments. It is reproduced in this article on Mother Earth News.