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San Marzano canned tomatoes in Halifax>

Hi everyone. We just moved from Kitchener and we have been looking for San Marzano canned tomatoes everywhere. Back in Ontario we could go to Zehrs and buy Unico San Marzano tomatoes for about $1.69 per can. We have looked in 6 different stores so far and the only San Marzano tomatoes were at Pete's Froutique for over $5. per can. Can anyone point me in the right direction or has Atlantic Canada not discovered these amazing tomatoes yet?

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  1. I'm afraid to say that you probably won't find them any cheaper than $5 per can. The Italian Market on Young St. carries them too, but no cheaper. I think that the Italian roma tomatoes that Pete's sells for $1.50 are just as good, though. They are just not from San Marzano.

    1. I've purchased some at Costco before. Can't remember the price but as with all Costco stuff you can buy in bulk...assuming they have it in stock still.

      3 Replies
      1. re: boynamedsous

        Regarding the Costco brand, they're Nina (in the 96oz.cans) and NOT legitimate San Marzano tomatoes. I haven't checked out what they carry in the28oz. size. Flim-flamming the public on DOP, legit San Marzano tomatoes has been raised to an art form of deception in recent years. I bought a case of Ninas and actually selected 6 large cans from different cases so I'd have different code numbers (different dates of batch harvesting). Upon opening them I immediately noticed most were not the classic deep, bright red and proper shape for real SMs. Bear in mind that there are, in this country, hybridized abortions of real San Marzano with names like High Street S.M. and the like and you can buy seed stock for them, but they're NOT the real deal. Know what to look for. Has the basil leaf in the can lost it's greenish color down to a gray-green? A sure sign of aged stock, Maybe in cans for over a year or two. The cans have a stamped code on one end and when you know the code it will tell you the packing month/year. Most of them now have changed to a not obvious number and the codes are difficult to decipher.

        My first step is to dump one can in a pot as a first step, stirring to retrieve and remove all old basil. While doing this I look closely at the tomatoes. With the Nina a good 50% were incompletely peeled.

        I won't go into my cooking/seasoning process, but sufficeth to say there are many brands out there fooling the public. La Bella San Marzano is a trademarked name, but nowhere on any do they say the ingredient tomatoes are San Marzano, because they're not. This holds true for many that people think are SMs. The phonies, when you read closely, become obvious. They'll say on the label something like 'packed in the San Marzano region' or 'in the San Marzano-Nocerino region" or 'shipped from" those same regions. Also stay away from the real San Marzano brand that is sold by ShopRite store chain on the east coast. They are SMs, but labelled by bulk contract with ShopRite and not a select grade to enable a lower selling price.

        I use CENTO, which are legit SMs and consistently have good results. Unfortunately they're not available in the large 96oz. cans, so I buy a lot of 28oz. size. Also, avoid buying dented cans and inspect the top and bottom edges for the SLIGHTEST hint of rust and don't buy any with a coded batch number close to the one on a rusting can.

        I read a lot of these forums and comments on how great some SM brands taste. Too bad that people eating them, when they are not legit SMs, don't have the discriminating enough taste to know the difference. I never add sugar to my legit SMs, because ripe tomatoes not in the can more than a year shouldn't need it as they won't be acidic. Should you get a can or two or three that, when you test the cooked down tomatoes (BEFORE ADDING ANYTHING) seems a tad acidic, try adding a tablespoon (no more) of dark amber maple syrup to neutralize a 3 (28oz) can batch.

        Good luck and watch out, there's alot of crap out there! If it seems too cheap and too good a deal, don't be suckered and pass it on bye. NO-BAH-DEE is given away legitimate first year picked in the can San Marzano tomatoes.
        (Just realized that I jumped into the CANADA forum in error, but no matter as the comments still apply.)

        1. re: doctorhugo

          doctorhugo - A fine posting and a real eye-opener. As usual if, as you say, it looks like a bargain it more than likely isn't, caveat emptor. Last week I went to Ca Hao in Halifax and spied the elusive XO Sauce. I proceeded to the check-out when I thought something does not look right here. Sure enough the maker was Lee in Thailand and not Lee Kum Kee. Lee had even gone so far as to use the exact script used by LKK. I have no idea if either is especially good though LKK was recommended to me. Again thanks for your posting.

          1. re: doctorhugo

            Doctor hugo...bless you for this thorough and practical review! I maintain that SM are the best and remain frustrated that they are hard to find in large cans.

            I did grow an SM-style tom in my South Shore garden this past summer and had a fine yield in terms of number and size.However, the weather was not kind to toms this past season and it wasn't a fair test of flavour. I am trying agian in 2012.

        2. Last time I was at Costco (less than a month ago), they had San Marzano in 28 oz tins{packs of 6) and also in the big restaurant size tins. I bought some of each and they are WONDERFUL!!!

          1. Costco sells these in packages of 6 - 28 oz cans for around $8. Haven't seen them anywhere else.

            1. At the Dartmouth Crossing Costco, we buy 96 oz cans (which we split and freeze) for $3.99. In fact, I think it was that deal that sold me on the membership. That and the Parmesan.

              Oh, and the cheap olive oil, which ranked number one in Cook's Illustrated's grocery store olive oil taste test.

              13 Replies
              1. re: tempest in a teapot

                DanArril , I imagine by now you have discovered all food related shopping is far more expensive in NS compared to ON (I'm from Upper Canada as well) - I know I certainly have. Then there is the frustrating (and often just plain giving up!) in trying to find numerous food products - good luck!
                I purchase the 96 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes at Costco as well, amazing price. With a can that size I enjoy a cooking blitz of homemade pizza sauce and a huge batch of Italian sausage ragu. As well, the 3 litre Solon Greek olive oil is an excellent price in Costco and watch out when they have coupons or rebates on this oil, even better!
                There is a bulk Middle Eastern food supply shop (they sell food from other countries as well) on either Lady Hammond or Kempt - across from Hyundai or around there, check in there for the canned tomatoes. The store does sell large cans of tomalittos which is another pricey item here.
                Once again good luck and continue to reach out to the local foodies on Chowhound.

                1. re: HFXFoodie

                  We moved from ON last year and you're so right, it is very frustrating trying to find certain items here. And the prices! ridiculous!! I'm so glad for Chowhound as usually someone here knows where to get the trickier to find items.

                  1. re: kiwiFRUIT

                    Having moved from Toronto only a year ago and living in Lunenburg, I am (partially) with you.

                    A couple of thoughts, though....I have lived many places including Curling, NL and also on the Adriatic in Italy and, frankly, experienced some deprivation in both. Italy seems like a dream place to live, but try to make buttertarts there and you will find yourself frustrated (no corn syrup). I had to wean myself from some of my favourite foods/ingredients...evaporated milk, digestive biscuits and cheddar.

                    Those items may all have been available in NL, but no way was I able to depend on a supply of fresh coriander, great wine or really good buter.

                    And now, here in NS, I am good with the balance on the whole...I do miss the freedom to pick up garum masala and Bonne Maman jam here in NS, but would not give up lobster at $5.99 from my neighbour, the lobster guy or Indian Point mussels or Donairs....my husband would not want to give up his Donairs!

                    1. re: LJS

                      LSJ - For garum masala try the Indian store one door down from the corner of North & Robie, on Robie, east side. Great selection. I know Bonne Mamam is available but can't remember where.

                      Try the Divela Filleti tomatoes at the Italian Market & Pete's and see what you think. We buy them by the case of 24 and find them very sweet,

                      1. re: chilibeanpaste

                        Thanks cbp! will do...I know exactly the place you are talking about, have seen but not had a chance to visit...do you have a recco for Indian Food dining out?

                        Also if you do recall the Bonne Maman jam/jelly source, do chime in anytime. I have pruchased Danish Orchard as a subsitute and it is fine. The problem with the jam issue is that when I do travel to TO on business, I have to check baggage to get it home which is a drag and nerve-wracking, too...imagine if that broke all over your suitcase!!!

                        1. re: LJS


                          When I made my own Seville marmalade I bought Bonne Maman at Sobey's on Queen Street. It seemed to be in stock year round. Surely Pete's has it too.

                          Atlantic Superstore on Barrington has given up on specialty items this and I have stopped shopping there.

                          1. re: chilibeanpaste

                            CBP: Pete's doesn't stock Bonne Maman, though to be fair they do have a good range of jam choices, just not MY fave...BUT I have never tried the Sobey's on Queen, you can bet that I will!

                          2. re: LJS

                            I've had some delicious meals at Curry Village (when it was at its old location. I can recommend you NOT try Gracious Indian (Windsor St.) or India Buffet Palace (Bayers Lake/Cole Harbour).

                            A couple of friends have raved about A Taste of India in the Scotia Square Mall, but I haven't tried it myself, so YMMV.

                            1. re: tempest in a teapot

                              I totally agree with you about Gracious Indian, so I will trust your recco and check out Curry Village....didn't even know there was an Indian resto in Scotia Square so that is also a possibility.

                            2. re: LJS

                              You know what, I was grocery shopping a few weeks ago and the Braemar Superstore now has a fancy jam section which includes Bonne Maman. There were a number of varieties but I don't recall specifics. Seeing as I made a huge batch of jam last week we won't be needing it for at least a year!
                              But you can get your fix...

                              1. re: kiwiFRUIT

                                Thanks Kiwi! Guess what-my daughter and I just 'put up' 12 jars of strawberry jam ourselves last week...isn't the crop this year amazing? However, this will not stop me heading out to the Braemar Superstore to pick up a jar of Bonne Maman. And in exchange, here is my favourite variation of Strawberry Shortcake: born of necessity, as said daughter is celiac.

                                Instead of the standard shortcake, try this:
                                1. macerate the sliced fresh strawberries in a blend of Bonne Maman jam and your favourite fruit-based liqueure: I have tried Cointreau, Peach Schnappes, even rum in a pinch. Let stand in fridge for 1-2 hours.

                                2. Whip your cream as usual, but then crush into it as many meringues as you need to make it stiff-I use a cup a whip cream whipped and an entire box (both sides of the Walkers brand boxed meringues as I know they are made in a GF environment-or bake your own).

                                3. Serve the layers of cream-meringue alternately in a parfait glass with a fresh berry on top.

                                Super simple, but guests always ask for 'recipe'!

                                1. re: LJS

                                  LOL, I jut made 3 pavlova on Monday as I had many egg whites left over from an ice cream. Unfortunately I can't eat them as I'm allergic to egg whites.
                                  Now to find someone to give them to!

                    2. re: tempest in a teapot

                      What is the name of the cheap olive oil? Thanks

                    3. Not to be a buzz-kill but the San Marzano tomatoes at Costco are not "real" San Marzanos. They are a fine canned tomato, probably the best you can get for the money around here. They are, however, San Marzano brand or trade name or something. The significant thing about these tomatoes is that "D.O.C" stamp that real San Marzanos have. The Costco lable is lacking in this distinction.

                      The DOC is the Italian equivalent to the AOC in France. It is the distinction given to foodstuffs, wine, and other culturally protected products that honor and recognize historical and traditional standards of production.

                      Oh, and the Gourmet Cash and Carry on Kempt closed down a couple of weeks ago. Will be missed.


                      1. While I agree that the 100 oz La San Marzano (di A Romano) are unlikely to be truly DOC San Marzano tomatoes, they are amazingly good. The local Mike's Kwik-Mart here in Lunenburg. sells them for about $6-7.00. This makes them a real bargain compared to just about anything I have purchased here in Canada. (we just moved from Toronto about a year ago and before that lived in Italy).

                        I also think I have single-handedly bought Mike's entire stock so far. After making up a batch of sauce and receiving rave reviews, I gave them as Christmas gifts to my foodie kid and friends.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: LJS

                          Thanks for the great replies everyone. We purchased 3 large tins and 1 case of the regular tins at Costco a few weeks ago. The tomatoes are not bad but I do not think they are true San Marzano's. They are not bad though, better than what is available in the grocery store.

                          When friends told us about the 'Superstore' we were excited, thinking it would be similar to what we were used to in the GTA area. Unfortuately it was not to be. This is not a 'Superstore' - our Zehrs back home was bigger than this store.

                          LJS is right about the wonderful fresh products that are available here in NS. I purchases lobster and mussels the other day for our 'seafood feast' and was extremely satisfied. The haddock here is wonderful as well.

                          Does anyone else have any recommendations on some other wonderful fresh seafood we should try since we are Halifax newbies? We live so close to the Fisherman's market we coulc actually walk to it!

                          1. re: DanArril

                            If you have not yet tried the scallops that are local, then you are in for a treat.

                            I like the medium sized Digby scallops the best.. Beware the small so-called 'bay' scallops that the supermarkets carry: they are often from China.

                            If you ask the very knowledgable folks at the larger fish stalls in the new market, they will guide you as to what is fresh and in season.

                            You might want to wander down the South Shore and check out the couple from Gold River Fish who also have a truck and visit many markets in the spring...they have some really good fish and advice.

                            On another tack entirely, get yourself over to Berwick to check out the AMAZING pork from Meadowbrook Farms. Well worth the drive, both in terms of quality and price. I first purchased their home-made gluten free sausage for my daughter who is celiac, thinking 'what a nice treat for her'...boy, was I wrong...it is simply fantastic for any sausage lover... only GF because they pack it with flavour, not fillers.

                            Then they cut ribs for us specially to order when they had run out of the usual and also found us a roast with 'crackling' still on. And excellent quality stewing pork and ground pork that you don't find everywhere as well as good chops, picnic cuts etc. I really highly endorse this place for everything except bacon.

                            For bacon, go to Pete's Fruitique and ask for the Montreal bacon. THE best!

                            1. re: LJS

                              Great info LJS thank you very much.
                              When we lived in Ontario we had a butcher that we could get great organic lamb from. We would usually order 1/2 a lamb at a time and it was amazing. Would you happen to know a butcher in the HRM area that supplies organic lamb?

                              Thanks again!

                              1. re: DanArril

                                I just bought lamb for a stew today, from Pete's on Dresden Row...I was pleased that it was local and didn't check for organic...although it is a preference for us, it is not a necessity if their is a local option.

                                My daughter who only buys organic meats always uses the butcher in the centre of the end aisle at the Market. I want to say Roseland, but I am not sure that is correct? they may have lamb, but it they don't at least try their sausages...really excellent.

                                I lived in the Annex and walked to the St. Lawrence Market on Saturdays to earn my back bacon on a bun...I actually do not miss the market much, but I really miss the BBonB!!!

                              2. re: LJS

                                If you'd like to check out Meadowbrook without the drive, there is a small retail outlet at the Alderney Landing market, they are super friendly and can organise meat for you from there.
                                I was quite excited to find corned beef there last week!

                                1. re: kiwiFRUIT

                                  Great news! they used to carry the Meadowbrook meat, frozen at Appleberry Farm Market in Bridgewater, but that went out of business last month.

                                  1. re: LJS

                                    For the MOST amazing sausage you should try Chris Weber's products - he is a regular at the Hubbards Barn Farm Market from May - October but during the "off" season he parks his incredible - smelling trailer at the Irving Station in Upper Tantallon (just before the Peggy's Cove turn) Exit 5 off the #103 highway. He is a certified butcher originally from Germany I believe and he lives in Greenfield, NS. He makes the trip to St. Margarets Bay area and people flock to him for the sausage, other excellent cured meats and freshly made bread (about 20 different types of bread each Thursday) His prices are very reasonable too - and his customer service and general attitude toward life make a stop there a total treat.