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FARMINGTON - Summer Jakino-Whistle's favorite food is chips and salsa, so it is no surprise the former home economics teacher began "tinkering with recipes" at her house.

This experimentation has paid off for Jakino-Whistle, who has entered her salsa in the Farmington Chamber of Commerce's Chile in October competition for the past two years.

In 2013, her salsa won both People's Choice and Judge's Choice, and last year the salsa won People's Choice and third place.

"The goal is to get back to first and first this year," she said.

Jakino-Whistle will represent the Humane Society of the Four Corners — she's president of the nonprofit's board — in the contest on Saturday.

This competition began eight years ago at the Farmington Museum. It quickly outgrew the location and was moved to Berg Park. Up to about 15 cooks attend annually, and the event attracts approximately 700 people, according to Audra Winters, the chamber president.

Winters said the cooks who come every year have gained local followings.

There are three categories that are judged — red chile, green chile and salsa.

Jakino-Whistle always enters the salsa category, and her secret recipe uses both red and green chiles, as well as a variety of peppers.

"It's super hot," she said. "It's the hottest salsa they have each year."

People attending the event pay $5 to enter. This buys them two sampling cups to take around to different booths. It also includes voting tickets for their favorite salsa or chile.

If they want to sample more chiles and salsas, they can purchase additional cups for $1.

Winters said the festival is one of the annual events marking the start of fall and the location was chosen with that in mind.

"The leaves are beginning to change by the river," she said.

Cooking salsa can add twist to favorite brands

Summer Jakino-Whistle started creating salsa based on her favorite store-bought brand.

This involved a lot of trial and error, but Jakino-Whistle eventually got a recipe she enjoys that added a bit more kick to her favorite salsa.

“I love cooking and baking and experimenting and trying to make recipes my own,” she said.

Here’s How

“If (people) do have a salsa that they enjoy already that they can buy at a store, they can just flip it over and read the ingredients,” Jakino-Whistle said.

This is how she started with making salsa. Her initial question was what ingredients make the salsa spicy.

“The salsa that I liked wasn’t hot enough,” she explained.

Her biggest challenge was finding the right consistency — not too much liquid and not too chunky.

She said too much liquid makes it so that it just runs off the dipping chips.

When she selects chips for dipping, she chooses them based on amount of salt and sturdiness.

One that she recommends is the yellow corn Santitas brand chips. She explained that they have the perfect salt level and are sturdy enough to hold her salsa.

Another challenge Jakino-Whistle has faced came last year when she used a large food processor to make the salsa for the Chile in October competition.

She said the salsa tasted different when she made it in the large food processor, so now she uses small food processors only to make the more than two gallons of salsa that she takes to the event.

While she has always had leftovers, Jakino-Whistle is not going to decrease her production this year.

“I try to have more than enough rather than too little,” she said.

IF YOU GO

What: Farmington Chamber of Commerce’s Chile in October

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Where: Berg Park, 400 Scott Ave.

Cost: $5

More info: Go to .gofarmington.com.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her@hmgrover on Twitter

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