Tomato Review- Cream Sausage

Next year my tomato madness is going to be all about canning varieties. As it turns out, that’s really what I enjoy most about tomatoes. True, there is no more divine experience than walking through the garden and eating tomatoes fresh off the vine but so many of those varieties go bad so fast. I was gone during the most productive days of the season this year and missed the majority of the eating varieties. It was tragic. We were not the only people who were affected by my ill-timed work project and vacation. Danielle in NYC, was affected. In fact, I think I sealed the envelope on her development of scurvy. The check is in the mail. You see, there is no fresh produce in all of NYC. That market you saw on Sesame Street, with apples and oranges piled high, is a lie. That produce was made out of Muppet fur. I had promised Danielle tomatoes that were made of…well, whatever they are really made of, when it’s not polyester and wire but while I was gone, all of the vine tomatoes went bad. At the end of the sad tale was this:

A bunch of un-watered dead tomato plants but the Cream Sausage tomatoes were still kicking out new fruit. All of the other tomatoes had rotted, molded, shriveled up and died but the Cream Sausage soldiered on. This variety was resistant to every bad thing the Garden of Good and Evil has to offer. They don’t sunburn. They don’t crack. They don’t care about rain or sun or sleet or hail. They are the U.S. Postal Service of tomatoes.

This next photo was taken in the last moments of my garden, as I was tearing out tomatoes and stripping the plants of all of the rest of their usable fruit.

That’s a really big basket and at the end, it was mostly filled with Cream Sausage tomatoes. For reference, the basket is this big:

So there you go. Proof that the plants produce enough to fill a 10-year-old boy. They also produced through the full season, which was admittedly short this year. They were amongst the first to ripen and clearly, the last tomatoes standing. I pruned the heck out of my plants this year to try to save them from the fog and rain. I had to take off a lot of foliage that had been affected with various types of bacterial speck, fungus and whatever else can afflict a tomato. Most of the early varieties were cat faced and the later tomatoes were sun burned because there weren’t enough leaves.  Cream sausage suffered not a bit. They continued to ripen in batches, making them easy to collect and process. The green fruit that I pulled from the vine ripened quickly, spoiling my plan to make pickled green tomatoes but the ripe ones were a lovely addition to the ketchup and tomato juice.

Let’s talk physical characteristics, real quick. These are in fact sausage-shaped.

They are a lovely pale yellow, which makes them easy to locate on the vine. They are generally 2-3 inches long and about an inch in diameter, which makes them comparable in size to those inferior but popular San Marzanos. Unlike the San Marzanos, Cream Sausage is not a seedless, dry, mealy, mess inside. They do have seeds and a bit of juice, which I appreciate in a canning tomato. There is more than enough flesh to make the tedium of peeling and seeding them for sauce, worth it. I put the guts and skins through the food mill to make tomato juice, so the extra juice is a bonus. Let me see your dry, old San Marzano do that!

You may be getting the idea that I’m anti-San Marzano. You’re right. To be honest, I did buy 100 lbs of them and can them this year but not because I like them, mostly because that’s the only “canning” variety that’s widely available. If I could have found another heirloom variety, I would have taken it in a second. My biggest beef with San Marzano is the flavor, or the lack thereof. Straight off the vine, they taste like they have already been in a can. When I cook with Cream Sausage, they are so tasty, I eat the little ones as I peel the big ones. When I cook with San Marzanos, the first one I pop in my mouth is the last one. There is no tomato flavored joy. Cream Sausage however, is pure old-time tomato goodness. There is a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity. The texture is good, too, unlike their quasi-Italian cousins. There are people who will tell you that you shouldn’t eat a canning tomato because they aren’t good for eating, I ask, WHY THE HELL DO WE KEEP GROWING CANNING VARIETIES THAT TASTE BAD? Of course, in large-scale agriculture there are many reasons to grow San Marzanos: tough skin, long shelf life, they ripen all at once, they turn red when gassed, etc. All the more reason to grow your own. (Hopefully by now, you don’t need more reasons.)

Here’s what I think. (Brace yourself.) If you are interested in doing a little canning but you still want an eating variety of tomato and you don’t have room to plant several types of tomatoes, this is your variety. You can slice neat little horizontal rounds onto salads, make pretty little hors d’oeuvres, you could even stuff them with a bit of cheese and basil, to create an inside out caprese salad. This may very well be the most well-rounded, not round, variety of tomato.

Are you wondering if I will be growing this variety next year? You bet your sweet bippy, I will. Next year, I’m on a quest to find the perfect canning variety of tomato. Tomorrow, we will journey deep into my brain when I discuss what my fantasy variety of canning tomato looks like.

As always, if you’re looking for seeds, you can get them here, from TomatoFest. you can get them other places as well but I like the quality of seeds from TomatoFest and I can peruse all the other 600 varieties they sell. You know…just in case I need something new.

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