Author Topic: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??  (Read 5286 times)

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Offline sourdough girl

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Hi, all...

I've been reading a LOT of posts about the brands of canned tomatoes to use... or not use...  I'm still chasing that "Tommy's--Pizza L'oven" (NE PA) flavor and think I've figured out that their sauce was JUST tomatoes, salt and onion... onion either IN the sauce or sprinkled on the pizza.  If so, I'm thinking that the quality of the tomatoes I'm using needs to be much better.

I have been using a store brand that's quite good, but they add juice, salt and citric acid.  And, the only brand I can find around here of the three main ones I've read about (San Marzano, 6-in-1 and Cento) is Cento... at an upscale grocery.  We have another store here in the Seattle area called Central Market (~40 miles from where I live!) and they might have all three... but is it worth the drive to find out?

So, my first question is... is Cento a good brand?  They're pricey here, but the label says "Fresh red ripe tomatoes" for ingredients and I would think that would be an improvement over anything with any kind of additives.  Also, the label doesn't say anything about "Italian" or "Italian-style" just "vine ripe tomatoes, fresh pack, not from concentrate"

My next question... if I can't find the other brands locally, is it worth the cost of shipping?  Canned goods can't be cheap, cause they're heavy...  >:D

My last question... I see people talking about growing San Marzano tomatoes from seed... do they stay true to the flavor profile no matter where they're grown?  i.e.  do they taste the same whether grown in my maritime soil and climate... or Italy's?   Anybody had any luck with growing them?

I'd sure appreciate any input! 

Thanks!
~sd

« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 08:13:44 PM by sourdough girl »
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Offline scott r

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2007, 09:19:12 PM »
Unfortunately Cento just changed producers and is no longer a special tomato.  I wouldn't bother hunting them down.

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2007, 09:22:31 PM »
Well, even more unfortunately, I guess, is the fact that they're the only ones I CAN find... so I'm guessing that you think I should spend time/money hunting down the other two?

~sd
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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2007, 10:14:40 PM »
My last question... I see people talking about growing San Marzano tomatoes from seed... do they stay true to the flavor profile no matter where they're grown?  i.e.  do they taste the same whether grown in my maritime soil and climate... or Italy's?   Anybody had any luck with growing them?

sourdough girl,

I'm sure that if you were to ask a grower of the authentic San Marzano tomatoes in Italy about growing your own San Marzanos in the U.S., even with seeds from Italy, you would be told that you won't end up with the same product. The reason given: it's the Vesuvial soil that is largely responsible for the unique qualities of the San Marzanos. It's much like the French wine producers and their au terroir ("with the soil") that says that you can't take a French grape varietal rootstock and simply transport it elsewhere and expect the same results. In Texas, we even have our own au terroir when it comes to cantaloupe grown in the Pecos, TX region of the state. The cantaloupe are by far the sweetest and best I have ever eaten, and the reason advanced is that the soil conditions (dry, hard soil) are a perfect match for cantaloupe. I have had cantaloupe grown in other parts of Texas where the soil conditions are different and they were among the worst cantaloupe I have ever eaten even though they were of the same variety as grown in the Pecos area.

If you decide to try growing San Marzanos from seed, as some members have done, I expect that they will taste very good, just as most fresh, off-the-vine tomatoes taste much better than what we find in the supermarkets. And I suspect they will work well on pizzas too, as many good fresh tomatoes from the garden will. I haven't grown any San Marzanos (tomatoes are not indigenous to Texas so they don't do particularly well here), so I can't make any comparisons with the authentic San Marzano tomatoes.

Peter

Offline nepa-pizza-snob

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2007, 11:49:53 PM »
I belive you and I spoke previously about this pizza. Regretfully I haven't learned anything more about it since. I hate to sound like a big negative jerk, but (in my humblest opinion) the pizza operators in this area  of PA would never be cited as high cuisine trend-setters, costly ingredient sourcers (unless garden grown) or gourmands of anysort. They are [mostly] concerned with making $$$$ and could care less about anything Italian. San Marzanos on a pie around here in my opinion are extremely unlikely. Unless this guy was an old Italian imigrant who brought seeds with him and grew those babies in his own personal rest. garden - he was probably using whatever was available to him at the time from the local food service and making sauce.

Even now many operators use canned sauce for there pizzas. There are a few that still "make sauce" but they are few and far between. It is an art and a passion, but an extra step and an expense. The pizza that you and I are passionate about is nothing more than a bottom line factor to the masses of pizza makers out there :'(

Offline rebeltruce

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2007, 07:40:55 AM »
sourdough girl,

I have a pizza sauce recipe I use quite often, found it online somewhere. It's called "Pennsylvania Pizza Sauce", could be close to what you are looking for taste wise.

It doesn't use any fancy smancy tomatoes, and the spices are all dried, (although it could be altered with some fresh herbs) I will post the recipe here, so you can give it the once over twice...

It is a cooked sauce....but it is very simple to make. I need to pull the recipe from my home computer, so check back tomorrow if you are interested.

By the way I am originally from central Pa., and have been trying to duplicate the pizza I grew up with for years. In fact I still drive home every now and then to bring back a half baked pie from my favorite local shop, then my friends and I here in Virginia feast!
« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 07:44:26 AM by rebeltruce »

Offline pizzoid

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2007, 08:58:28 AM »
My last question... I see people talking about growing San Marzano tomatoes from seed... do they stay true to the flavor profile no matter where they're grown?  i.e.  do they taste the same whether grown in my maritime soil and climate... or Italy's?   Anybody had any luck with growing them?

San Marzano's aren't one of the more fungus (etc.) resistant varieties. I haven't had good luck with them on Cape Cod, I doubt the Seattle area climate is a lot better. They want hot & dry. You might give some of the more resistant variants a try, like Super Marzano. They won't taste the same, as others have pointed out, due to soil variations. Probably something to do with sulfur content, among other things. Can you get volcanic soil from shops down near Mt. Ranier?

- Al

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2007, 02:01:20 PM »
I belive you and I spoke previously about this pizza. Regretfully I haven't learned anything more about it since.
nepa-pizza-snob, unfortunately, we haven't spoken about this topic, so if you have more to say about this type of pizza, please enlighten me!!

I don't know how much has changed in NEPA since I was eating "Tommy's" pizza in the 50s and early 60s, but I distinctly remember that the pizza was nothing fancy.  Just crust, a tomato sauce and white cheese.  BUT, fancy or not, it is a memory of happy times that I would like to replicate, especially for my almost-80 yo mom who was born and raised there. 

I have a pizza sauce recipe I use quite often, found it online somewhere. It's called "Pennsylvania Pizza Sauce", could be close to what you are looking for taste wise.
It doesn't use any fancy smancy tomatoes, and the spices are all dried, (although it could be altered with some fresh herbs) I will post the recipe here, so you can give it the once over twice...
By the way I am originally from central Pa., and have been trying to duplicate the pizza I grew up with for years. In fact I still drive home every now and then to bring back a half baked pie from my favorite local shop, then my friends and I here in Virginia feast!

rebeltruce, I am certainly interested in the sauce recipe!  And I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who is trying to duplicate a PA pie!  I lived in VA for two years in the mid-70s... and got hooked on a "steak and hot-pepper sub"...  that may be my next quest for duplication!!

Thanks for your comments, Pete-zza!  I was kind of figuring that there would probably be a difference... I think I will probably stick to the Oregon Spring variety that I have such good luck with.  It was developed by the plant geneticist for whom I worked while attending Oregon State, but that's one bit of info we never tested for ... variation of flavor profile based on soil type.  He was just interested in disease resistance and early fruit maturation.

pizzoid, I got a chuckle out of your volcanic soil comment because we Puget Sounders are worried about Mt Rainier blowing... with the prevailing SouthWesterlies, the ash from THAT volcano would get dumped up here where I live and then I would have volcanic soil!  (And, BTW, Rainier HAS been having earthquakes!)  Probably all the volcanic ash from Mt. St. Helens has been turned into tourist souvenir jewelry and glass door stops!   :-D  Seriously, though, most folks who don't live here don't believe it, but we DO have a drought period every summer... and no, that doesn't mean a weekend with no rain!  Most years, we go July, August, September and possibly into October with barely a trace of rain during that whole 3-month+ time-frame.  The temp varies from high 70s to mid-90s!  But, I think, tomato-wise, July is too late for the drought to start.
Which brings me back to the canned quandry....

~sd
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Offline scott r

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2007, 03:56:49 AM »
sourdough girl.  I really think the best thing for you to do to help your tomato issue is to hit the streets.   Go out and buy every italian tomato you can find, san marzano or not,  and throw in a few of the best of the best california tomatoes as well (escalon and stanislaus).  Check normal grocery stores in your area that you don't usually frequent as well as any local italian store or wholesaler that you can convince to sell to you.  For now buy only whole tomatoes peeled or unpeeled. Get yourself a blender or food processor and crush them all, then strain them in a fine mesh strainer.  The real trick is to equalize salt levels and hydration.  Many Italian tomatoes are very low in salt compared to amarican tomatoes so you will need to taste and stir a lot to even thing out.  Then make some pies.  I have made them with 4 different sections of sauce to taste test.  Once you find the best canned tomato available to you in your area you can start worrying about your recipe (which may very well end up being nothing but proper draining and salting).

Good luck, and I really miss those rainier cherries.  I see them from time to time here in Boston, but they never seem to taste as good as the ones I picked up at a market in Tacoma.  They tasted like mini peaches..... amazing!

Offline rebeltruce

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2007, 09:13:00 AM »
sourdough girl,

Here ya go. Like I said nothing fancy, adjust the water depending on how thick or thin you need your sauce to be. The original recipe calls for MSG, I've chosen to eliminate it, but if you want to add it, the amount is 1/8 tsp. I almost always add some heat, a bit of cayenne seems to work real well.

I like this sauce very much, it's very hearty, robust sauce.

I know this is OT but tell me more about these "Steak and Hot pepper" sandwiches! There are a few good "Steak and Cheese" places, but I haven't run across the "Steak and Hot Pepper" sandwich. I've always found it interesting that folks in Va. call a "Cheesesteak" a "Steak and Cheese".

Pennsylvania-Style Pizza Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:
1       12 ounce can tomato paste
11/2   cups water
1       teaspoon ground oregano
1/2    teaspoon basil
1/4    teaspoon salt
1/4    teaspoon black pepper
1/4    teaspoon sugar
1/8    teaspoon garlic powder
1/8    teaspoon onion powder

Measure dry ingredients into a small container, mix together well, and set aside. In a medium sized saucepan, combine tomato paste with water over medium heat until it has a uniform consistency. When it begins to bubble, add pre-measured spices and reduce heat to medium-low.

Allow to simmer, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes until it reaches desired thickness. Stir occasionally. Cover and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container until needed, (up to 4 weeks). Makes about 2 1/4 cups...enough for 3 - 12" pizzas.


Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2007, 02:35:24 PM »
scott, thanks for the advice!  I shall take it.  We don't have a large Italian population here like in some parts of the country, but when you mentioned Italian markets, I remembered DeLaurenti's down at Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Used to be they were not open on Sundays, but I checked their website and they list Sunday hours now, so off I go!!  And I think you may be right... I'm really starting to think that the sauce I seek is just tomatoes and salt.  I really hope to have this pie deconstructed by the end of August when DH and I travel down to Oregon to see my mom.  I REALLY want to throw a pie in the oven for her... she's been waiting patiently through all my iterations, hoping that I can recreate a taste of home for her!
And, as I was wandering through my local grocery yesterday, list in hand, I happened to walk by the kosher section... and looked up to discover Diamond Crystal kosher salt!  When I checked the label, the ingredients are...SALT.  Even Morton's, which is my usual kosher salt, adds yellow prussiate of soda.  Our humidity is within normal range (most of the time) so I'll take my chances with caking.  I'd rather have pure salt.

rebeltruce, thanks for the sauce recipe!  I'm going to give it a try as I'm still always seeking to improve my sauce for round pies, which I make as often as NEPA rectangular pies.  My mom suggested at one point in my NEPA quest that I try paste instead of tomatoes and that's when I added paste to my tomatoes in ever-increasing amounts, but haven't tried straight paste yet.  Also, I don't have a problem with MSG so may try that as well because it adds a different kind of flavor enhancement.  This should be interesting!
And, I'm going to start another thread in "Off Topic Foods" and call it "VA Steak and Hot Pepper Sub" so that we can discuss this further without the worry of being OT...  it's another food addiction from my past which I would love to replicate.  The memories aren't as happy as my childhood pizza addiction (pizza=doting immigrant grandparents, steak sub=ex husband in the navy) but, nonetheless, that sandwich was SURE GOOD!!

~sd
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Offline putnam

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2007, 09:30:49 PM »
... is it worth the cost of shipping?  Canned goods can't be cheap, cause they're heavy...


I just tried a brand of tomatoes that was new to me. Pacific Natural Foods, in a fresh-pack carton. I couldn't find any reference to this brand after searching these forums. I think I could happily eat an entire carton of these tomatoes with a spoon. Anyone else have experience with them.

Offline Bryan S

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2007, 02:30:36 AM »

I'm really starting to think that the sauce I seek is just tomatoes and salt. 

And, as I was wandering through my local grocery yesterday, list in hand, I happened to walk by the kosher section... and looked up to discover Diamond Crystal kosher salt!  When I checked the label, the ingredients are...SALT. 
I'd rather have pure salt.

~sd

Diamond Crystal Salt is great. I usually use sea salt because I can't get the Diamond here.
As far as tomatoe's go, If you can find the Stanislaus Full Red Cacciatore Sauce http://www.pennmac.com/items/3430 or the 6-1's http://www.pennmac.com/items/3227 this might be what you are seeking. I can say that the Full Red is just unbelievable right out of the can. Sharp, bright, fresh Tomato flavor with nothing interfering with the taste. If you can find this sauce in your area give it a go, I really think you would love it. I added some spices and such to the Full Red sauce yesterday and to be honest I think it was better just right out of the can.  ;)
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Offline bakerboy

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2007, 03:13:00 PM »
Bryan, dittos on the stanislaus.  I have to make alot of sauce everyday and this stuff is very good.  I use a combination of 7/11, and Saporito.  Tastes bright and fresh.  A little sea salt, sugar, and cracked black.  Any other flavors can catch a ride later, on the pie.
SDG:  Stanislaus makes (imo) a very good whole peeled tomato called "alta cucina". I use them on my specialty pies.
   Just a note...i don't work for stanislaus but i've tried others and i always end up with a pizza sauce that tastes like the sauce that comes with spagettios. ooof!.

Offline nepa-pizza-snob

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2007, 11:52:01 PM »
All I can say is try a Stanislaus product or a combination of Stanislaus products and season to
taste. Ground tomatoes mixed with tomato puree are amazing when seasoned properly.

Use a half sheet pan - coat with veg. oil - bang out your dough - Pizza Lovin is fried by the oil in the pan

Pizza sauce in my most humble opinion should only be cooked on the pizza and not before it dulls the
flavor.

Try a blend of high quality american and mozz. - finish on a stone or rack to crisp unless the pan does the job
« Last Edit: July 19, 2007, 11:56:37 PM by nepa-pizza-snob »

Offline sourdough girl

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Re: Canned tomato quandry... and growing San Marzano tomatoes??
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2007, 02:55:45 AM »
putnam, bakerboy and bryan, thanks for the input... i am on a tomato quest now, as well as a NEPA pizza quest!  my local grocery carries one brand of fresh pack tomatoes that i hadn't thought of trying... maybe i should, even though i haven't heard of the brand.  just reading your posts makes me hungry!  and stanislaus (my immigrant grandfather's name, by coincidence!) sounds like they put out a good product, from all i can glean from this site, especially.

nepa-pizza-snob!
glad to hear from you...  i'm figuring out the "sauce"...and am trying as many brands of tomatoes as i can to find the right one.  stanislaus doesn't seem to be available in the puget sound region that i can find.  i also think the NEPA sauce is just tomatoes with salt and not much else...and definitely not cooked... but can you give me any guidance on the crust ingredients?? 

i have the half sheet pan (as well as a full sheet pan, which is the size i remember from "tommy's"), i've tried a regular NY style dough and i threw it on the grill (~700* i think, from the long-stemmed thermometer i dropped down through the lid vents) and i got close... so any help with the dough would be GREATLY appreciated!!

thanks to all for the great input!
~sd
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