Nine months out of the year I’m forced to use canned tomatoes in the kitchen, a sad decline from the glory of ripe summer versions. A lot of canned whole tomatoes on the market are crap, although I do love the Italian brand Pomi when I can find the boxed version. I’ve found that Muir Glen’s whole tomatoes have the best flavor of any canned tomatoes, so close to fresh that it’s tough to tell what I used in a long-simmered sauce—but the texture is kind of yucky. Cook’s Illustrated agreed with me, calling them “waterlogged,” “chewy,” and “stringy” in a 2005 review. I won’t link since the reviews are for website subscribers only, but if you’re curious, the magazine liked Progresso Italian-Style Whole Peeled Tomatoes with Basil best.
The texture is better in Muir Glen’s crushed and diced style of canned tomatoes, but it seems to me that the flavor is off. They taste too cooked somehow. But I’ve finally found the answer: Muir Glen Organic Ground Peeled Tomatoes. They’re smooth enough to use in a sauce without pulsing in a blender, but they don’t have that cooked taste. They’re bright, fresh, and clean tasting.
Though it hasn’t reviewed the (relatively new) Muir Glen crushed ’maters, Cook’s backs me up here, reporting that canned tomatoes with tomato purée listed as the first ingredient on the label are usually the worst tasting, because the purée has to be cooked at a high temperature. That high temp breaks down an enzyme, lipoxygenase, which destroys the tomato-y flavor. First ingredient of MG’s ground tomatoes: organic tomatoes, not purée (though it is the second). Ha! In your face, summer.