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tomato sauces question

sylvan Aug 17, 2010 01:53 PM

tomato sauces
Hello. We don't like acidic, spicey tomato sauces. I prefer to spice my sauces with fresh vegetables including some carrot, al dente squash, celery and fennel seed. Would the best canned tomato for me to use be pureed tomato because it's the most plain?
Sometimes, when the sauce is too acidic or salty I add a little baking soda or more carrots. Thanks.

  1. i
    Isolda Aug 17, 2010 02:51 PM

    Right now, tomatoes are in season (assume you live in the Northern Hemisphere), so fresh ones are the best they'll be all year. That's what I'd use in making a sauce. The rest of the year, you can use any canned tomato that doesn't have added seasonings. Pureed tomato is no plainer than whole tomatoes to which nothing has been added and the whole ones will give you a nicer tomato flavor. My favorite canned tomatoes are the Muir Glen brand. They're organic and they have many different types, some with no salt or added seasoning of any kind, so you can control the flavor. I also find them a lot sweeter than other canned tomatoes. I've never needed to tone down the acid or add sugar or extra carrots.
    But for now, while they're in season, go to a farmer's market and pick up some heirloom tomatoes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Isolda
      greygarious Aug 17, 2010 03:12 PM

      I don't like acidic sauces either. I think heirlooms are a good investment for tomato sauces that are only briefly cooked, if at all, but not for a typical, long-cooking sauce, where they won't make much difference. They are several dollars a pound here in the Boston area, so unless you can buy a peck or two of bruised ones, they are cost-prohibitive for sauce.

      I prefer canned crushed, whole, or sliced tomatoes in puree to plain puree, since you get more body and texture. I stock up on sales, regardless of brand, and always add tomato paste, which helps mellow acidic tomatoes.

      1. re: greygarious
        Isolda Aug 17, 2010 06:17 PM

        I totally agree with you about the tomato paste--I always use that in my winter canned tomato sauces. I'm also in the Boston area, but joined a CSA that gives us pounds of fabulous tomatoes so for now, I don't have to pay market prices.

      2. re: Isolda
        sylvan Aug 18, 2010 01:00 PM

        Isolda, thanks for your response. Your advise will suit me well from now on. I use a lot of tomato-based recipes. I live in the Palm Springs, Ca area and will put the canned store brand tomatoes in my earthquake larder and hope I never have to use them.

      3. ipsedixit Aug 17, 2010 03:34 PM

        Try this.

        Use ripe in-season tomatoes and add a splash of Vodka to your sauce as you simmer. The Vodka will cook off and you'll be left with a wonderful full-bodied tomato sauce with deep complex flavors that will play well with the other veggies that you normally add to your sauces, e.g. the carrots, celery, squash, etc.

        Using Vodka will get you the best of both worlds -- the fresh vibrant earthy sweetness of tomatoes without the astringent acidity that you sometimes find with tomato sauces.

        1. j
          jameshig Aug 17, 2010 07:07 PM

          The best canned tomatoes, by far, are muir glen. However, if you are near a good grocery store, or farmer's market and can pick up fresh tomatoes, make it from scratch.

          On preview- exactly what isolda said.

          1. eight_inch_pestle Aug 17, 2010 07:16 PM

            +2 on Muir Glen being a notch or three above the rest. I go with whole tomatoes myself, so I can decide how finely I want to chop them. Also, I've always had a completely unfounded but nagging suspicion that companies put their less than stellar tomatoes into their pureed products, where individual imperfections are lost.

            Muir Glen also has a "fire-roasted" line, which is excellent---altho I haven't seen fire-roasted whole tomatoes in awhile.

            1. j
              jameshig Aug 17, 2010 07:33 PM

              This question got me to thinking about the best way to cook farmers market tomatoes into tomato sauce and I found this fantastic recipe online. I think the key is to roast the tomatoes off before making the sauce as it really concentrates the flavor, though I'm not sure how this affects the acidity.


              1 Reply
              1. re: jameshig
                jeanmarieok Aug 18, 2010 04:58 PM

                thanks for the post, James. I am putting some tomatoes up this weekend, and this is what I am going to do.

              2. s
                sylvan Aug 18, 2010 01:04 PM

                Thanks so much for all your responses. Basically, you've all suggested using fresh or canned Muir Glen brand. I've never seen Muir Glen brand here in the Palm Springs area but will look for it. All I've seen are store brand, Hunts and Contadina...so, I'll use canned whole tomatoes that haven't been tampered with by the manufacturers or use fresh tomatoes. You've all helped be a lot.

                9 Replies
                1. re: sylvan
                  madonnadelpiatto Aug 18, 2010 01:18 PM

                  one additional tip is to look if sugar has been added to the canned tomatoes. Good tomatoes are naturally sweet. Unripe or low quality tomatoes are acidic. The added sugar is used to correct the unwanted acidity. When you cook your sauces, make sure to use low heat and cover the pan. This way you keep most of the flavor from boiling away. Use good quality, fruity, extra virgin olive oil. All ingredients are important!

                  Here are my recipes for Italian tomato sauce with both canned and fresh tomatoes

                  1. re: sylvan
                    greygarious Aug 18, 2010 01:44 PM

                    You might be able to find Pomi brand, which is in a rectangular carton and has nothing but tomatoes. Also, tomato paste has no added ingredients, just fresh tomatoes cooked down and reduced.

                    1. re: sylvan
                      ipsedixit Aug 18, 2010 03:18 PM


                      This is going to sound weird, but I've actually Muir Glen tomatoes at 99 Cents Only Stores. Might want to check there.

                      1. re: sylvan
                        LindaWhit Aug 18, 2010 03:23 PM

                        Sylvan, try Whole Foods or Trader Joe's for Muir Glen brand. I 3rd, 4th, and 5th the Muir Glen brand - especially the fire-roasted version.

                        1. re: LindaWhit
                          sylvan Aug 22, 2010 11:52 AM

                          ipsedixit and LindaWhit............thanks for those tips locating those brands, thanks a lot

                          1. re: sylvan
                            rezpeni Aug 22, 2010 02:53 PM

                            don't worry about finding Muir Glen I don't like them anyway, they aren't picked ripe enough and they use too much citric acid in their canning of tomatoes, they come out almost pickled. if you are making tomato sauce look for an imported italian brand of san marzano tomatoes especially ones marked D.O.P.

                            1. re: rezpeni
                              LindaWhit Aug 22, 2010 03:15 PM

                              Interesting take on Muir Glen, especially with so many raves about it. They're all pretty much the same, with citric acid being a component of all that I've found that list their ingredients:

                              MUIR GLEN ingredient list: Organic fire roasted tomatoes, organic tomato puree (water, organic tomato paste), sea salt and naturally derived citric acid.

                              STRIANESE San Marzano tomatoes ingredient list: Whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, San Marzano tomato puree, salt, basil, citric acid

                              PASTENE San Marzano DOP tomatoes: INGREDIENTS: San Marzano Peeled Plum Tomatoes, San Marzano Tomato Juice, Salt, Citric Acid, Basil Leaf.

                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                rezpeni Aug 22, 2010 03:51 PM

                                I find most American tomato brands in general seem to have an obsession with keeping the integrity of the whole tomatoes. This usually involves picking early and more cirtic acid. But to me the real test is this, empty out a can of muir glen and then a good brand of DOP tomatoes and squeeze them with your hand. The muir glen feel firmer with tough peices of tomato escaping between your fingers. The Italians are on the whole usually very soft and velvetly offering little resistence when squeezed. Beyond the consistency I also find the flavor vastly superior.

                        2. re: sylvan
                          cutipie721 Aug 23, 2010 11:27 AM

                          I've actually stopped using canned tomatoes all together to avoid BPA. It doesn't matter what brand it is or organic or not, canned = BPA. I've been slowly freezing most of the tomatoes I got this year. Or get the ones in Tetrapak.

                        3. Karl S Aug 22, 2010 05:47 PM

                          POMI strained tomatoes. Pure tomatoes, not even salt. In a tetrapack box. Runs about @2-2.50 per box in my local markets. Looks like:


                          1. s
                            sylvan Aug 25, 2010 02:54 PM

                            I went to Trader Joe's to locate some of your great suggestions. All they had at the Palm Springs, CA location were their own brands. Now I've found a local source for Muir Glen, Pomi and San Marzano at Stater Brothers grocery store of all places. I'll be shopping there and looking forward to finally trying each one. Good bye to overly-spiced tomato sauces. Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sylvan
                              sylvan Sep 7, 2010 06:48 PM

                              I found Muir Glen and Pomi and Trader Joe's has its own brand of the latter. I've tried them all and love them all. I'll use them from now on and never get Hunt's or Contadina again except for chili.
                              Thanks all for your help. All your suggestion will make a huge difference in my meals from now on.

                            2. i
                              IDavis Jul 24, 2011 10:07 PM

                              Some of the best canned tomatoes I've ever used are the Muir Glenn brand. However, the are not the most consistent and vary year to year and season to season. I would still recommend trying them. If you find a batch that are good, buy a whole bunch of cans. The best canned tomato based on quality and consistency are the San Marzano variety from Italy. They come in a variety of brands, Cento is the most popular and most available. Just make sure they are the real deal from Italy. By either of these tomatoes whole in a can and then crush them by hand. Tomato sauce in a can is never as good.

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