Bi-Rite Homegrown

Way back in the good old days (…we’re taking 1700’s here) Peru gave the San Marzano Tomato to the Kingdom of Naples as a gift.  Now, why the practice of one country giving another a type of produce as a gift has fallen out of style is a mystery to me.  I know that I’m constantly preaching about looking to the past for insight into how to improve our food systems these days.  Let’s bring back the international fruit swap!

Lines of vines on our farm

For the last couple of years Simon and I have been teaming up to grow, harvest, roast, and preserve our own tomatoes for the market.   This season’s batch has just hit the floor and is tasting great!  Simon got a hold of some Italian San Marzano seeds and grew this variety of tomato specifically for our sauce this year.  San Marzano is a type of “paste” tomato that is very similar to a Roma.  The things that set this tomato apart from the rest of the plums are its thin skin, thick flesh and low seed count.  This makes for a tomato that yields a good amount of finished sauce.  That, coupled with its robust flavor and mild acidity produces a tomato puree of excellent quality.

roasted to perfection

The sauce starts in the spring, when we till the soil on our Sonoma farm and plant rows…  then I get back into the kitchen and wait for Simon to work his magic.  Once the summer begins to fade and the pickup truck starts showing up at the market packed to the brim with flats of tomatoes, I get to work.

Sam and I busy in the kitchen

First, all of the tomatoes get washed and checked for blemishes.  Then we spread them on sheet trays, cover with salt, black pepper, olive oil, and we roast them in a hot oven.  When the tops of the San Marzanos begin to turn black and the skins start to split I pull them out of the oven to cool off.  Next, we blend the tomatoes with a little bit of citric acid to make sure that the pH will drop and the jars will be shelf stable. We bring water to a boil to quickly sanitize the mason jars before filling, then we fill the jars with sauce and drop them back into the skillet to simmer for about an hour.

Now our tomato sauce is ready for the winter months–find it on our shelves now, ready for your favorite pasta, casserole or meat dish!

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