For salsa devotees looking to shop and eat local, 5Gen Salsa has what you need. This sweet and spicy salsa first took fans by surprise when Harrisburg resident Kim Ham-Lanes started bottling and selling the salsa. Since 2011, 5Gen’s lineup of bloody mary mix and mild and medium salsas has won its fair share of awards, and for good reason. This family recipe has been a winner for five generations.

As its name suggests, 5Gen salsa goes back five generations in Kim’s family. It started on her mom’s side as a homemade ketchup and chili sauce, and Kim grew up making it each summer.

“Mom taught me how to make it, and we’d go and buy tomatoes from farmers and spend hours in the kitchen blanching and peeling and chopping tomatoes,” Kim says. “We used to put it in glass Coke bottles and seal them with wax.”

For years, Kim and her family gave away bottles of the sauce, and she began to call it salsa instead. She used to uncork a few bottles while tailgating at Mizzou football games.

To Kim, part of what makes her family’s recipe so appealing is its simplicity. This preservative-free blend has just six ingredients: tomatoes, onions, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices. Which spices get tossed in? That’s a family secret, but Kim says the key is making sure the end flavor is approachable and not too spicy. By keeping some of the more popular but spicier peppers like habaneros out of the mix, Kim’s family recipe creates a mild salsa that puts the tomato first. Any heat is thanks to a subtle hint of cayenne and red pepper flakes. As a result, Kim says it goes great on anything.

Photos courtesy Kim Ham-Lanes

When Kim got the idea to start selling the product, she pitched the idea to her mom, who gave the project the green light and tossed in the seed money to get the product off the ground. From there, Kim enlisted the help of bottlers MK Sauce in St. Louis and Pappy’s Gourmet in Washington, Missouri, and took samples of the mild and medium salsas to Mosers, HyVee, and Schnucks. The grocery stores got hooked and started selling 5Gen’s salsas. Then, Kim’s bottler had an idea. They told her they were pouring off gallons of extra juice from the chunky salsa and suggested she repurpose that flavorful brine as a bloody mary mix. It was an instant hit. In 2016, the mix won third place in the Bloody Mary Mix Division at the World Hot Sauce Awards held in Louisiana and silver in the Bloody Mary Division at the 2016 SIP Awards, an international spirit competition. The salsa won gold in the Consumer Choice Award at the 2017 SIP Awards.

Even with awards to prove her recipe is a winner, Kim says 5Gen is still just a hobby, albeit a really tasty one. All event promotion, sampling, and distribution is done by Kim herself. To grow 5Gen’s presence around Missouri, Kim works weekends and is joined by her mom who helps out at festivals and tasting events. Kim still looks back fondly on those summers in the kitchen with her family.

“It was very time consuming, but it was fun,” she says. “It was the camaraderie of hanging out and cooking and the pride of putting something up in your cabinet that you made.”

Article originally published in the February 2012 issue of Missouri Life.


Try some 5Gen Salsa on this Tex Mex brunch recipe.