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San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

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  • San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

    Some time ago I found this interesting thread about San Marzano tomatoes on the pizzamaking.com forum (http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/ind...ic,2007.0.html as well as http://www.gustiamo.com/cgi-bin/fron...prodotto?id=37)

    I did a bit more research and found out that most of the San Marzano tomatoes is what they call "type 2", which is a hybrid of the original strain making it more suitable for mass production. The producer of the "Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro" tomatoes managed to get (in conjunction with a professor of Agriculture in Naples) to get some of the original strain going and is now growing and bottling/ canning them.

    Prior to going to Europe, I decided to try and track these tomatoes down and I managed to find out the name of the person in charge ( a gentleman by the name of Sabato Abagnale) and tried to email him on both of the two email addresses I had for him. Unfortunately one of the emails bounced back and from the other I got no reply. I found out his mobile number and rang him. Small problem here: he only speaks Italian and I don’t speak any… so he hung up on me.. so it looked like a dead end street.

    Then last September/October we spent 5 1/2 weeks in Europe, including some time in Italy.

    We only had 4 days in the Campania area, where we spent most of our time on the Amalfi coast (mainly Positano and environs) , although we did manage to get to Naples for one day and visit some pizzerias. (another story)

    We were leaving that part of Italy on our way to San Gimigniano and I said to my partner: “ I have the address of this tomato guy and his village is only about a 15 km detour (Sant Antonio D’Abate), so why don’t we try and see whether we can find him? She thought it had all the hall marks of an utterly wild goose chase and hence agreed ( Smiley), so we set off.. I did say to her that if this place turned out to be a factory or shop then that was all cool, but if it was a residential home, we would just leave it.

    After some time, we did manage to find the right street, parked the car and started walking looking for the right street number. The place was unfortunately a residential apartment, so we walked around it, looked it up and down and were just about to leave when a young woman walked past and asked us what we were looking for (at least I presume so, because I couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying). So I said in my best Italian: “pomodoro… Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro … Sabato Abagnale” She started smiling and beckoned us to come with her. We walked just around the corner to a bar and as we entered, I could see a can of the said tomatoes sitting on the shelf behind the counter. They found a young guy who spoke a little bit of English so we managed to get some conservation going. It turned out she was a relative of Sabato Abagnale (probably a sister??) and the guy behind the counter was a friend of the family. He showed me lots of pictures on his digital camera of their most recent crop and how it was processed in their factory (mainly really small scale processing, primarily manual labour with everybody pitching in.) They seemed intrigued by the fact that some crazy Dutchman from New Zealand knew about their product in the first place and was crazy enough to spend half a Sunday looking for it… They got me a couple of jars of their smaller variety of tomatoes (pomodorini) and a jar of the real stuff: the genuine “Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro” tomatoes. The young woman also rang Sabato Abagnale on his mobile (he was on the other side of Italy, Rimini for a few days) and told him about our visit. We tried to have a conversation on the phone, but the language barrier was (again) too great..

    I then asked for some fresh tomatoes (pomodoro fresca) and they looked puzzled and said: “the jars you have are really, really fresh.. they were bottled yesterday”. I then (somehow) managed to get across that I was hoping to get some (non – canned) tomatoes and they got me a bag of tomatoes out of their cool store that were “seconds”: not good enough for inclusion in the regular production, but OK for sauce etc. They gave us a bag full of these, most of which we ate over the next few days of our travels. Finally they got out some wine (Prosecco, a bubbly wine) and wanted to have a drink with us before we left.

    They refused any payment for the jars of tomatoes and said it was a gift.

    We were really blown away by their hospitality to a couple of total strangers and their obvious pride in what they were doing. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

    I managed to get these jars of tomatoes all the way back to New Zealand (and that was a major effort, given our customs people etc) and now have this dilemma:

    When do I open up my solitary jar of “Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro” tomatoes???

    BTW, not all of the fresh tomatoes that we got were eaten; a number of them were dissected, the seeds dried and stuffed into my jeans pockets upon re-entering New Zealand (where you can just about get shot for doing something like this..) I have attached some pics of our visit with the Abagnale family / friends as well as a picture taken tonight of a nice crop of tomato plants…
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Tomato terrorist taunts T.S.A.

    (P) "I managed to get these jars of tomatoes all the way back to New Zealand (and that was a major effort, given our customs people etc) and now have this dilemma:" How do I avoid going to jail as a tomato terrorist?

    (M) Piet, This note is from the C.I.A. We read your encrypted message on this forum and want you to know that we have extradition laws and plan to come for you and your Polonium 20 laced tomato seeds.

    Homeland Defense

    ================================================== =====

    Tot Ziens,

    Marcel
    "Everything should be made as simple as possible, ...
    but no simpler!" (Albert Einstein)

    Comment


    • #3
      LOL...

      Well Marcel, I wanted to smuggle something in:

      the choice was between:

      1. tomato seeds, or

      2. a pair of water buffalo, so i can start my own herd and make my own Bufala Mozzarella.

      simple choice really, don't you agree?

      Comment


      • #4
        KiwiPete,

        Now that's a story. Where does one start? How did a Dutchman end up in NZ? What should we do when you are thrown in jail for import violation? Did you also smuggle back bags of Caputo flour? -- now that could really get you thrown in jail; white powdery substance stuck in customs.

        How was the pizza in Naples?

        How is your oven cooking? Did San Gimignano seem touristy, or pretty good?

        Let us know how the seeds take to the NZ climate. Both the tomatoes and the water buffaloes.

        Great story, from a man who had 55lbs of Caputo flour shipped from California to NZ.

        James
        Pizza Ovens
        Outdoor Fireplaces

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

          tomato update:

          One thing I have found: fresh is best. On a trip to Sydney, Australia I bought a passata mill. After I brought it back home, I was dead keen to try it out and bought a big bag of vine ripened, truss tomatoes and put them through the mill.

          Firstly, after processing these tomatoes were very watery and needed reducing before they could be used as a passata on pizza. After reducing them (no additions of any kind), I kept some in the fridge and bottled the rest. The taste of this puree / sauce was outstanding. I invited some friends and relatives to taste this and they found it hard to believe that this was just pure tomato with nothing else added. Even a young friend of mine who rarely eats tomato based products thought it was really good.

          Changing tack a little bit here: I came across an interesting article on the internet about canned tomatoes and they tested a whole bunch of different brands. They found the “Il Miracolo di San Gennaro” tomato to be the second best (first being their organically home grown tomatoes).

          On a trip to Naples last year I was able to obtain some seeds from the original strain of San Marzanos (not the more modern, hybridized version).

          They were duly planted in the garden, as per below (with the pizza oven in the background):



          When they started ripening and I was able to pick the first crop to turn into pizza sauce, some of the differences between these and the vine ripened truss tomatoes were quite significant: when I processed the truss tomatoes, the first “run trough” was primarily a pretty watery, reddish liquid. I would then return the leftovers into the passata mill another 3 or 4 times to extract more of the pulp. Either way, the end product needed a lot of reduction to achieve the desired consistency.

          After I processed my first batch of San Marzanos through the passata mill, I got a very rich, almost creamy tomato concoction coming out of the chute after the first run through. (see picture below).



          Here is the sauce ready to go on the pizza.



          Dressed pizza prior to baking:

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

            Pizza after baking:



            Here is a shot of a bunch of tomatoes ready to be bottled:



            and ready for preserving:



            I know I am a bit over the top on some of these things, but I really think that growing your own tomatoes beats just about any canned variety hands down..

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

              Those pictures are fantastic. I need a greenhouse

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

                How do you preseve the tomatoes? they do not look like you blanced them>

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

                  I'm trying to preserve them in the same way as the original "Il Miracolo Di San Gennaro" tomatoes (so I can do a taste comparison later on). As I understand it, they go into the can whole and unpeeled, are then covered in Roma tomato puree and then canned / preserved.

                  (Funnily enough, because they are canned unpeeled, they can't get the DOP certification .. go figure. )

                  So mine were done in the same way.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Heirloom seeds

                    San Marzano Heirloom Tomato Seeds

                    wonder if these are the real mcCoy or the variant?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

                      i grow my garden with seeds i get from a guy who imports them from italy. I get san marzano seeds, eggplant, melon and garlic for growing from him. he is at seedsfromitaly.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

                        Peter,

                        Seeing your story from start to finish -- Italian seeds to New Zealand pizza is great. Home grown San Marzanoes in the front and your own wood-fired oven in the back. Does it get much better than that?

                        Can you share your technique for processing fresh tomotes? I've tried it, and it's tough to get a rich sauce that isn't watery. With spring coming to the north (sorry about that), I am guessing more of us will be making fresh pizza sauce. Thanks for the great posting.

                        Oh, one more thing. I think your beautiful mozzarella pizza could have done with a few more seconds in the oven.
                        James
                        Pizza Ovens
                        Outdoor Fireplaces

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

                          Originally posted by tommy5 View Post
                          i grow my garden with seeds i get from a guy who imports them from italy. I get san marzano seeds, eggplant, melon and garlic for growing from him. he is at seedsfromitaly.com
                          My organic San Marzano seeds come from a place in Queensland known for its alternative/ecological pursuits (no dutch 'imports' a la fireblight, I hope :-) ) - they may despatch to NZ or other places. Check out Green Harvest ...

                          I put my seeds in a bit late, the bushes grew well after transplanting but have now shed most of their fruit green. Perhaps they needed more sun...

                          Cheers
                          Carioca
                          "I started out with nothing, and I've still got most of it"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: San Marzano Tomatoes

                            Pete,

                            Thanks for a great post. Very interesting and a joy to read!

                            Originally posted by james View Post
                            Can you share your technique for processing fresh tomotes? I've tried it, and it's tough to get a rich sauce that isn't watery.
                            James,

                            I have the same clicker tomato press as Pete (rather than the more expensive conical auger/sieve type), and all I do is put the tomatoes through 3 (or even 4) times to get every scrap of flesh, leaving just the skins and seeds behind. Then straight into bottles with a basil leaf or two, sealed with crown seals and into the preserving outfit, the water heated to a temperature of 212°F and boiled for 15 minutes. The preserving apparatus is switched off and the bottles are left in the sterilizer for a further 60 minutes.

                            The only preparation required prior to pressing them is to cut a small cross with a sharp knife at the stem end, and then into hot water to soften slightly for a few minutes. This makes the tomatoes squish more readily when they’re put through the press.

                            I normally use 180ml San Benedetto soft drink bottles, as they are a good size for one or two servings of pasta. The pic shows very little settlement after two years.

                            I used Roma tomatoes for this particular batch, but have ended up on occasions with some really watery sauces, too! It depends a lot on the type of tomato and the time of season. Later in the season tomatoes tend to become more watery, so it’s best to make lots of passata in peak season in my view. Then you’ve got a good supply for pizza and pasta sauces throughout the year.

                            Originally posted by carioca View Post
                            My organic San Marzano seeds come from a place in Queensland known for its alternative/ecological pursuits
                            I’ve just found these (see pic) at the local Italian deli! Have to wait now until next season to try them out.

                            Cheers, Paul.
                            Attached Files

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: San Marzano Tomatoes ... and visit to Naples

                              Hendo, thanks for the P.d.F. tip - they look good! But sometimes seeds that are in W.A. can't get to the east coast, and vice-versa! I think Greenharvest.com.au does NOT ship a series of seeds/plants to W.A. due to quarantine issues...

                              NB: My green sm tomatoes still coloured up nicely on the kitchen sink, and I've been chewing them for days now!

                              Ciao
                              LMH
                              "I started out with nothing, and I've still got most of it"

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