What’s in the jar?
In the mood to cook a delicious meal but don’t want to prepare a savory tomato sauce from scratch? Look on your local gourmet grocery shelf for a jar of Valicenti Organico Red Gravy.
I recently visited Dave Valicenti, owner of Valicenti Organico Farm in Hollis, to see where this jar of aromatic heaven is produced. Dave returned to his hometown after a career as a chef in fine dining restaurants in New England and New Orleans — hence the term red gravy for seasoned tomato sauce. While deciding what his next career move would be, Dave noticed that the local agricultural base was disappearing — farms were turning into developments. He quickly cleared the old gardens on his property and planted various herbs and heirloom tomatoes to enjoy his own fresh organic produce.
After a fruitful season, he put up the abundance of ripe tomatoes from his garden into gravy. His homegrown heirloom tomatoes with their sweet juice and soft, easy to peel skins were the perfect base. As friends and family cheered him on, the recipe and idea for an organic red gravy production was born.
The processing began in Dave’s garage. Because of increased demand, he recently finished a build-out of the old apple docking storage facility on his property into a modern, certified production kitchen. Dave walked me through the steps of production — picking, washing, paring, de-stemming, cutting, roasting and simmering in giant kettles for up to 14 hours. The sauce is then hot-filled into the containers, creating the necessary vacuum seal.
A few varieties of farm-to-jar sauce are planned for the near future, including an arugula pesto, a cashew cilantro pesto and a red gravy with agave for those who are sensitive to sugar.
Dave said that he hopes to make fresh pastas and distribute them to area farm stands and gourmet retailers along the N.H. and Mass. border in the spring.
— Hillary Kyle