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Posts Tagged ‘Jersey Fresh Crushed Tomatoes’

My results of my little taste test are in and Jersey Fresh Crushed and Scalfani Tomatoes are both winners.

I haven’t had a chance to call Violet Packing to see if someone will tell me if Scalfani tomatoes are the same type and batch as Jersey Fresh Crushed Tomatoes. But last night I did my own taste test. I’ll let you know what my palate says, then once I get through to a source, maybe we’ll see if I am right.

You can’t tell from the photo, but the Jersey Fresh Tomatoes are a bit thicker. They have a slightly more intense field tomato taste. If I had to guess, and I am, the Scalfani taste a bit more like romas and straight from the can are a tiny bit more watery. Both are local (Jersey grown.) Both are minimally processed (water and salt). And both claim they are packed within 24 hours. Are they the same. I’m guessing, but I don’t think so.  And honestly, they are both pretty darn good.

Last week, I made (and fell in love with) the Bklyn Larder recipe for spicy tomato soup and, it may have been a can, but this is not the Campbell’s Condensed my mom used to force on me. I never loved it, but only would tolerate it because I did love the iconic side of a grilled cheese sandwich. This soup was totally different. It’s vibrant and fresh. The recipe is ridiculously easy – tomatoes, butter and sugar and hot sauce which apparently is very close to the recipe for buffalo chicken wing sauce. For me, it really worked. And I was surprised that blending butter into the tomato gave the soup a pale color – reminiscent of my moms can of milk in the tomato soup but sooo much better.


The Jersey Fresh package came with a recipe for easy marinara sauce from Primizzi which they claimed would rival the best jar. Last week, I made it, being careful to follow the recipe exactly, and they were right. It was really quick and really good.


I’ve certainly made sauce from scratch before, but I’ve never pared it down to just garlic, tomatoes and basil. Usually I add onions at least. But in this case, simple was superb.

Tonight I made the same recipe with the Scalfani tomatoes and I have to admit there was no significant difference from the Jersey Fresh. Both cans made restaurant quality tasting sauce.

Last night we ate this sauce on Flour City Pasta. Super yummy. Super local. And super expensive. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

In the meantime, here are two canned tomato recipes that could make any Meatless Monday deliciously easy.

Recipe Review: Bklyn Larder’s Spicy Tomato Soup

Adapted from recipe available on Tasting Table
Soup
Recipe adapted from Andrew Feinberg
Makes 6 to 8 servings
• Two 28-ounce cans Jersey Farms crushed tomatoes
• 7 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
• 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used my own homemade, slightly chunky hot sauce)
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• Water
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large saucepan or soup pot, simmer the crushed
tomatoes on low until slightly thickened, about 30 to 45
minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter,
hot sauce and sugar. (I didn’t bother waiting the entire half an hour. I simmered about 10 minutes)
2. In a blender, puree the tomato mixture in batches, then
return to the saucepan and thin with water to desired
consistency.
3. Rewarm the soup, season with salt, pepper and hot sauce
and serve.

I served the soup with this cilantro pesto. It was delicious.

Recipe: Super Easy Cilantro Pesto
One handful of cilantro
A few cloves of garlic
salt
Enough olive oil to make a thin paste.
Blend all ingredients in a blender, mini food processor or mortar and pestle. Dribble on soup before serving.

Recipe:  The Easiest Maranera Sauce Ever

4 cloves of garlic

1 can Jersey Fresh Tomatoes

10 basil leaves cut into Julienne

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Dice garlic. I added a bit of salt and used the back of a knife to make a paste. Sauté garlic in olive oil just enough to get it soft. Don’t brown. Add the tomatoes. Cook for five minutes stirring. Add red pepper flakes and half the basil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta. Add the remaining basil for garnish.

Note: You can buy Jersey Fresh Tomatoes Primizie. And I believe the Caliban’s Kitchen Discount is till valid. Use coupon code: CKITCHEN25 and you’ll receive $25 of $50 purchase.

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This winter, I’ve used approximately 6 cans of canned tomatoes and three jars of sauce. I’ve been keeping track – so that next year, when tomato season hits, I can make an educated decision about how many tomatoes to cook and store. That is, unless I hit the Holy Grail of canned tomatoes before then. (Meaning someone else with a bigger kitchen has canned them.) I’m trying to figure out if Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes are what I’ve been searching for.

Last week, my friend Greg turned me on to a Tasting Table post  about another local resource for canned tomatoes: Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes. Apparently this is the brand used by chi chi Chefs like Chefs Tony Liu (Pulino’s), Nick Anderer (Maialino), Craig Hopson (Le Cirque), Marc Meyer (Cookshop, Five Points and Hundred Acres) and Andrew Feinberg (Bklyn Larder). If it’s good enough for Le Cirque, it’s good enough for Caliban’s Kitchen. Right?

I decided to jump on the restaurant big wigs bandwagon and try these Jersey Farms. Of course, I leaped and then decided to take a look to see what I leapt into.

Based on the package design, you might think you need to have your cans airdropped onto a hidden island aka Lost’s Dharma initiative. But in NYC you can actually find them at most of the usual suspect fancy grocery stores:  Fresh Direct, Dean and Deluca, Stinky Bklyn, Greene Grape Provisions, Bklyn Larder, Union Market, The Brooklyn Kitchen, Court Street Grocers and Murray’s Cheese.

My gut worried that this was going to be another expensive resource.  At Fresh Direct, the tomatoes run $3.19/can. But there was a link on the Tasting Table page to buy now. They got me. I clicked and found myself at Primizie — Importer of Fine Foods.

At Primizie a case of the case of 12 cans of tomatoes cost $27.99. That comes out to $2.35 a can. It’s not super cheap, but it’s cheaper than my bodega. The shipping charge was going to be about $11 but they offer free shipping for over $50. So I doubled my order.

Plus I spoke to them and if you use the special Caliban’s Kitchen code you can get a great discount — use coupon code: CKITCHEN25 and you’ll receive $25 off a purchase of $50.

Ok, 2 cases is a lot of tomatoes, but I figured, fresh tomatoes really won’t come until mid July if I’m lucky. So I’m investing in more veggie chili for the winter but also a few batches of early summer gazpacho – I hope these tomatoes are good. . . .

Both Tasting Table and Primizie’s promised that these tomatoes are packed  within 24 hours. That’s fresh. According to the Primizie: This can is filled with pure, vine-ripened, fresh field-grown tomatoes picked by a cooperative of six farmers in southern New Jersey. Once they’re off the vine, these Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes are canned within 24 hours, and a percentage of the sale of each can goes directly back to the hardworking farmers.

I ordered the case between meetings. I had been meaning to do it for a week. At first glance I was excited by the fact that a percentage of the sales of each can goes back to the hardworking farmers but after I had a moment to stop and think, I wondered – why wouldn’t the farmers get money from the tomatoes. Something was off with that statement.

I did an Internet search, and besides other bloggers waxing poetical about the lasagna or soup these tomatoes inspired, I couldn’t find any info about the growers. I started to wonder, who’s running this cooperative? Tony Soprano?

So I called up Primizie  again and asked if they could help me get in touch with the farmers cooperative in southern Jersey. Jacyln was very nice, but she said she couldn’t pass me the information. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. She did agree to pass on my questions. Here’s what I asked:

1) I understand that these tomatoes are not organic, however, can you find out their farming philosophy? Do they use petro-chemical fertilizers? Are they low spray? Do they spray on demand, or do they spray as a preventative?

2) What kind of tomatoes do they can? Are they Roma or Beefsteak ? (Beefsteak’s what I think of when I think Jersey tomatoes) Do they ever use heirloom varieties? Or do they use any of those Italian types? Do they use any GMO seeds?

This morning, I didn’t hear anything from Primizie. Again, I wasn’t surprised. So I sniffed around a bit more until I found a phone number at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture where Bill Walker was able to provide me a lot of great answers.

I asked him some of my questions. He said, that no, the cooperative was not organic but that in general traditional farmers are not interested in using chemicals unless they have to. Chemicals are expensive and most farmers want to use them as little as possible. I have heard that before from other traditional farmers. But I’ve also heard from organic farmers that chemicals are not necessary. But that’s another story. Bill said that Jersey farmers are aware of the environmental implications and the potential hazard to the farm workers. According to Bill, New Jersey Farmers are interested in integrated pest management.

“We probably have some of the smartest most technologically advanced farmers in the country,” Bill said, “thanks in part to Rutgers cooperative extension program. So, for example, if it stays hot and wet for a certain period of time and Rutgers sends out an email and will tell them to spray. They get all that real-time data so they can monitor when pest or fungicides are necessary.”

He also told me something else I didn’t know, farmers who spray chemicals need to have a license. In order to keep that license they have to do courses at Rutgers Cooperative Extension every year to stay up to date. Interesting.

Bill told me that the tomatoes are packed by the Violet packing plant – the only packers left in NJ. I wondered if that was the case. I’d talked to them before the last time I was researching NJ tomatoes – they pack Scalfani brand tomatoes. But what I found out today was that the Scalfani family actually owns the plant – although they may have sold it recently to a “big conglomerate.” I have a contact name to talk to at Violet – I’ll call them tomorrow and see if I can get some clarity. I’m also curious if Jersey Farms Crushed Tomatoes are the same tomatoes as the Scalfani brand. In any case, I still have a can of Scalfani, when my gazillion cans of Jersey Farms come, I’ll do a taste test.

Bill thinks that it’s likely that Jersey Farms brand are not Roma or San Marzanos but Jersey style tomatoes—the big beefy lookers called Ramapo’s. I still need to confirm that. Here’s what the NJ Farm Fresh says about Ramapo’s

“The Ramapo Tomato was developed at Rutgers NJAES in 1968 by Dr. Bernard Pollack. Many years ago it disappeared from seed catalogs. Seed companies were favoring varieties that produced higher yields for commercial growers. Despite its disappearance, Rutgers continued to receive many requests for this tasty tomato and produced small batches throughout the years. And now, the first commercial lot of organically grown genuine Ramapo F1 hybrid seed is available through an effort by Rutgers NJAES”

When I asked about what it meant that a “percentage of the profits from each can goes back to the farmer,” Bill didn’t exactly have an answer. But he did have some interesting background info. “In almost any processed food situation,” he explained, “the farmers get about 1/3 of the profits, the processor/wholesaler gets a 1/3 and the retailer gets the final 1/3.”

Maybe Primitive gives the farmer a percentage of their third. I’ll call tomorrow and see if Jaclyn or someone else can explain. In the meantime, my bumper crop of Jersey cans has just arrived. Apparently ground shipping from the Bronx takes less time than it takes me to post!

The final rub, the can were shipped in a big box filled with Styrofoam peanuts. Arggg. What did they think? The cans would break. My splurge of organic Black Kabuli Chick Peas (not local at all, I’m afraid) also came wrapped in bubble wrap!

I did quickly speak to Primizie a few minutes ago and they said that they are working on using more environmentally friendly packaging materials but right now they can’t afford it. I appreciate that they are concerned, but I do think it would make me hesitate to order again. Unless, they will take my peanuts and bubble wrap back and reuse them. It’s unlikely,  but hey, I can dream.

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