Doing the Salsa in Sandy
Oct 07, 2015 12:26PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
Linnaea Mendoza handing out samples of her salsas to young customers at the Wheeler Farm Farmers Market.
By Linnea Lundgren
Capturing and canning the deliciousness of Utah’s bountiful fruit and vegetable harvest are what Sandy residents Linnaea and Sergio Mendoza do best.
Vine-ripened tomatoes, hot habaneros, and “sweet-as-liquid-candy” peaches are just some of the local ingredients used in their Salsitas Mendoza salsas, which they sell at local stores and South Valley farmers markets. And this flavorful business all started in their kitchen.
In 2011, Sergio was laid off and Linnaea worked extra shifts at a Sandy health clinic. Her kids needed something delicious and nutritious to eat, and food easy enough for their dad to prepare. So, Linnaea, building on lessons learned from her sister-in-law’s grandma, started canning soups and salsas.
“People started liking them,” Linnaea said. “They started disappearing out of my pantry.”
Coworkers bought them, as did many pharmaceutical reps who visited her clinic. The turning point came when the washing machine broke and her kids’ soccer fees came due. Prompted by this, Linnaea spent several days and nights canning 156 jars of fire-roasted tomato salsa and brought them to the Taylorsville Dayzz celebration.
There, at her booth with all her salsa jars, she suddenly developed stage fright and froze. That’s when her 12-year-old son —“my shyest son” —stepped in and offered people samples. “We sold tons,” she said.
Her fan base expanded and soon her salsa stand became a mainstay at festivals and farmers markets, but not before she and Sergio jumped through hoops to obtain government approvals and learned to make the salsas shelf-stable and able to hold their heat.
Now, Salsitas Mendoza is a full-time business for the couple, who’ve been married for 20 years.
“We love it. As stressful as it is, it makes us happy because we are the ones who benefit directly from our own work,” she said.
Their five kids are also involved in the business, including their 18-year-old daughter, Marisela, whom they consider a third partner.
Salsitas Mendoza salsas come in two lines. In the fresh line, there’s seasonal peach, mango, guacamole and a cucumber salsa. In the fire-roasted line, they offer tomato salsas of varying heat and tomatillo salsas. They also offer hot sauces and a red chili sauce, perfect for authentic enchiladas.
Their business has moved from home kitchen to a commercial kitchen, but all recipes still come from Sergio’s family in Guadalajara, Mexico, and all products are made without oils, sugars or preservatives. They place importance on using regional produce—tomatoes and peppers are from Riverton’s Petersen Family Farm and tomatillos are from Orem’s Chavez Farms.
Local groceries, namely the Sandy Ream’s and the Harmons and Pirate O’s in Draper, stock their products. However, more often than not, the Mendozas are found at farmers markets, including South Jordan and Wheeler Farm, where they set up with their homemade chips and salsas for sample and sale.
The Mendozas especially enjoy selling at these markets because they get to know their customers. Plus, they believe buying local is important.
“You don’t want your community run by the big-box stores,” Linnaea said. “You want the mom and pop shops, the family-owned businesses. You want the money to stay in our economy.”
But equally important is that behind each salsa produced is a lot of hard work, dedication and love. “Small-batch food made locally just tastes better. The quality is there.”