San Marzano Tomatoes

I've spent the summer canning. Obsessively. Pick a fruit. Any fruit. Okay, a local fruit. It's on my shelf. In a jar, in a syrup, a jam, maybe a jelly or a pickle. I've lost my fear of canning and for the first time I'm putting up everything. This week I'm on tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes.

I would have passed the San Marzanos up at the farmers' market if I hadn't been told they were good. They look hot house, too shiny, too conformed, all the same size. They look like a chorus line, each one in the same costume. I shop for disheveled heirloom varieties. The lumpy, jowly varieties that are art when sliced in any direction.

The first time I sliced into a polished San Marzano I grimaced. Grocery store, I thought. Not a lot of meat or seeds, or, well, anything. It was nearly hollow. I tossed a few in a pan; with a little heat the skins came easily off. I worked them; but not too much, stirring, pulling out the peels. They became almost delicate.

Not expecting much I put a dimes worth on the end of the wooden spoon. The first taste I didn't believe. I put a nickles worth on the spoon, then a quarter. I was sure. The taste was sunshine. New sunshine. It tasted like the first part of the day when everything is still possible. It tasted pure, pure tomato, and it was love.

I've since slow roasted them, a few hours at 170, peeled back their skin, one half at a time and slid them directly into my mouth, the taste as brilliant as the inner mandala of an heirloom.

And I've turned the San Marzanos into sauce. It didn't take much; a warm pan, a food mill, they melted into sauce as fast as I could get them into jars and seal them.

Winter is going to be sweet.


Tammy said...

Lovely post. This is so well written that I can really taste the San Marzano as I read.

Kelly said...

'dishevelled heirlooms' love that - my sentiments exactly but sometimses life brings surprises...

Kale for Sale said...

Tammy - I wish I could reach through the computer and hand a spoonful of sauce to you but thank you for imagining with me in words. And your nice words too.

Kelly - I've missed you in my unblogging but obsessive summer of canning. Yes. Life and produce are full of surprises. We should have bumper stickers.

Anonymous said...

I could taste it too...I've been canning a little, not as much as I had hoped. Guess I've been too busy bothering people at the grocery store :) I think we'll do one last summer PYO this weekend for peaches and blackberries. My first reaction is to make jam, which we don't really eat that much I've been freezing a good bit. And already planning my garden for next year!


Kale for Sale said...

Colleen - I was in the grocery store the other day, an event in itself, and thought of you when I overheard a woman ask if the farmed salmon was organic. I had to walk away. And laugh. I couldn't say anything.

But jam, we've hardly ever eaten jam either but now that I'm making it we eat it all the time on yogurt.

Donna said...

I have missed you so much. My new rule, starting today is... I will read Kale for Sale before anything else. And start everyday with a big smile.
Love, Olivia

Lara said...

I fell in love with San Marzanos for cooking sauce two years ago and now grow my own. This year was not very good for tomatoes in Seattle, but I think I will get a few jars worth for winter. Your description is lovely.

Kale for Sale said...

Donna - I'm smiling too but not writing nearly enough to entertain you every day of the week. I will have preserves for you the next time I see you though! xxxxo

Lara - It's not been that hot for tomatoes at my house either. I have exactly three green tomatoes on one five foot plant in a pot. But it's still so satisfying to grow a tomato, isn't it. And San Marzano's in the yard! It makes my mouth water. Lucky you.

Donna said...

It doesn't matter that I read the same posts over and over. And marvel at your photographs. I find something new to appreciate you for... and I smile. I can almost taste the preserves waiting for me in your pantry. Hugs to you! Love, Olivia

Sharon Lovejoy said...


I don't want your head to swell to the size of a melon, but you deserve a pat on the back. The descriptions of the jowly, disheveled heirlooms (sounded too much like me in my apron right now), but I laughed out loud.

I'd tell you that you SHOULD be writing for a magazine, but they're disappearing by the day. So stick to it and express yourself for all of us.

Happy canning,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Sharon Lovejoy said...

P.S. I looked at your profile and laughed as I read, "The idea of yoga, other people's children."

You list Tracy Kidder as one of your favorites. I was at a talk recently and he came in to listen and sat next to Richard Russo. What're the chances of two Pulitzer Prize winners sitting together on a table and swinging their legs like two boys on a log?

Sharon again

Kale for Sale said...

Sharon - Thank you for your enthusiasm. And your laughter. That's always good. And I would have loved to have seen Mr. Kidder swinging his legs with RR. Very cool. I'm glad too I could help with the kale salad. You've reminded me I haven't made it in too long!

Ozarkhomesteader said...

I fell in love with San Marzanos from the garden too, but, sadly, this is our second year of poor harvests. Last year it was blight; this year it was excessive heat that kept blooms from setting. I still have hope. I haven't ripped out my plants yet.