If you are hosting a Cinco de Mayo dinner or party on May 5, 2014, it pays to plan ahead. Especially when it comes to two main ingredients essential to making salsa or guacamole as sides to nachos, tacos, burritos and enchiladas: tomatoes and avocados.
Chain supermarkets often have on display tomatoes and avocados that are not fully ripe. This is done to avoid spoilage while shipping which decreases the retail price to consumers. So buying tomatoes and avocados several days ahead to give time for ripening will help you pull off some awesome guacamole and salsa for Cinco de Mayo.
Many people often wonder, "How can you tell when an avocado is ripe?" Well the answer to this is firmness. In particular, you want to use Haas avocados for making guacamole. Haas avocados are smaller and darker than their Florida avocado counterparts. Other produce can help guide you in judging the ripeness of an avocado:
If the avocado is as firm as an apple, its not ripe.
If the avocado is as firm as a tangerine, its ripe and ready to use for guacamole.
If the avocado is as firm as a peach, its overripe and may have started to rot inside.
Chances are if you wait until the day before or the day of Cinco de Mayo, all of the perfectly ripe avocados will have been picked through - which is just another reason to shop early for your tomatoes and avocados.
If there are only very firm avocados available at your grocery store, place the avocados in a paper bag with your tomatoes and let sit for 3-5 days at room temperature. The ethylene gas produced by the ripening tomatoes will help accelerate the ripening of the avocados. Check on them daily to ensure that they do not become overripe.
Since you are already shopping ahead in the produce section, it is also good time to pick up any fresh or dried chiles that your recipes call for, because these too can go quick leading up to Cinco de Mayo.