Friday, October 19, 2012

Soup's On!

Tomato soup has been my Holy Grail ever since I started growing far more tomatoes than I could possibly consume several years ago. I asked friends for recipes, and no one really had anymore more refined than "tomatoes, basil, add cream." So I tried that and while it was good, it wasn't GREAT. I asked the internet and it suggested, "Use tomatoes and onions, but ROAST them first. Maybe with some carrots." Somewhat better, but not exactly the tomato soup of my dreams. All perfectly edible, but not perfect.

So for the most part I gave up and just canned whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes. This year, however, I happened across this recipe: 

Actually this is her photo for creamy gazpacho, but it looked more like tomato soup than her tomato soup picture.

Now there were several things that seemed interesting about it. For example, cloves which I would NEVER have thought to add to tomato soup. As it turns out, cloves are the magic in tomato soup the way nutmeg is the magic in mac and cheese. It just tastes right. And running it through a food mill before seasoning and thickening it is smart because it saves me from the frizzy hair and burned fingers that comes with blanching and slipping the skins off of tomatoes for canning. PEELING TOMATOES SUCKS. That's right. You heard me. And it's about time someone said it. 

So having only the internet's promise that this was a time honored and much loved recipe, I decided to chance it despite my limited tomato resources...

Okay, I lied. I was at risk of being crushed to death by tomatoes.

The recipe calls for "1 1/2 ice cream pails" of tomatoes. I have no idea how much that is given that the last time I bought any quantity of ice cream that could be described as a "pail," I had to bike to the grocery store and pay with change. 24 cups is the official quantity, but I'm not sure if that's whole or chopped or what. Now that I have made approximately 7000 batches of tomato soup I can tell you - it really doesn't matter. Just put in a lot of tomatoes. I have these TRYGG serving bowls from IKEA that hold about 12 cups of whole, fresh tomatoes.

It's like they're made for this.

So generally I aim to have two of these full per batch of soup. Now here's the beauty of this soup:

Tomato soup is like the statue of liberty of tomato canning endeavors. Tomato soup wants your bruised tomatoes, the ones with spots on them, the not-quite-ripe, and the 400,000 yellow cherry tomatoes popped up in the garden unasked for from last year's fallen harvest. Tomato soup doesn't judge! 

So just cut off whatever bits look unappealing and half or quarter them, then toss them in a big stock pot over medium heat. Just add the other ingredients as you prep them. Don't put a lot of effort into making small pieces or anything, a rough chop is fine. Add in:

  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 4 cups onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 large green peppers, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped (about 3/4 – 1  cup chopped)
I've done it without the celery or with dried parsley and both turned out just fine in the end. I'd say the same thing about home grown peppers and onions as I do tomatoes, just cut off any blemishes and throw it in, no worries. This is a great way to use up stuff that wouldn't otherwise keep.

The first change I made to the recipe is to add a couple of jalapenos quartered (and seeded, if you like) because I prefer for tomato soup to have a good bit of zing. Also, if you think the tomato situation is bad, you should see how many jalapenos I've had to deal with this year. To the pot add about 5 bay leaves and 6 whole cloves. Again, this differs from the original recipe a bit. I like food to be jam packed with FLAVOR. Bring it all to a boil, then turn it down and let it simmer for a couple of years hours.

Sure, it LOOKS like rabbit puke, but the house will smell wonderful!

Eventually it will all cook down and look more like you think it's supposed to.

Mmm, gloopy!
So it looks good, but DON'T TASTE IT. Remember, there's no salt or sugar in it yet, so it will taste about as good as a used Kleenex at this point. Time to fix that. First, dig around in there and pull out those bay leaves if you can find them. The next thing you want to do is turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree it all into a fairly thin consistency.

R.I.P. white immersion blender

If you have an immersion blender with a plastic shaft, you might want to let it cool a bit before this step. I got away with it a few times, but eventually the plastic warped enough on this one that the blades scraped against the bottom of the pot. I splurged on a new red Cuisinart immersion blender that has a stainless steel shaft.

And yes. I realize how many times I just said "shaft".

Once it's good and pureed, ladle the soup into a food mill fitted with the fine screen (if yours is adjustable like mine). I tried running it through twice, but it didn't make much difference in the final product. The first pass-through will catch enough of the seeds and skin to result in a pleasantly silky soup.

Strain it back into the pot (I usually rinse it out first), and turn the heat back on. Meanwhile, whisk together the following:

  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tsp Cayenne pepper

Again, I upped the cayenne because I like things on the hot side, although my six-year-old who refused to eat NOODLES and has screamed, "TOO SPICY! TOO SPICY!" upon making skin contact with mild salsa loves this soup more than Jesus. Er, more than the six-year-old loves Jesus I mean. Jesus would probably also love this soup, but possibly not more than the six-year-old. I'm not really sure I can prove my argument one way or the other.

Somewhere Michael Pollan is saying, "See, I TOLD you there's corn in everything."

In YET ANOTHER bowl, or the one you used for the straining, melt a stick of butter (the recipe calls for margarine, which might be after for long term canning. I think it's gross, so I risked using actual butter). Stir in a scoop or two of the reheating soup, and then whisk in the dry ingredients. Once you've got a good slurry going, stir it into the pot of soup. Bring to a boil and let it thicken. Now comes the fun part - the tasting! I like to add in a couple of frozen pesto cubes, along with about 1/4 cup of lemon juice both for the flavor, and to keep the balance acidic for canning safety. Add salt, sugar, and lemon juice as needed to adjust the soup to your taste. 

To can, spoon thickened soup into hot, sterilized jars. Top with sterilized lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath 45 minutes. Each batch makes about 5 pints, but I usually double it and end up with 5 quarts and a little left over. 

To serve, mix it with equal parts milk or water and heat, then top it with loads of freshly ground pepper and cheese, ideally with a good crusty baguette.

The full recipe as adapted from The Baking Beauties:

  • 24 cups whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 4 cups onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 large green peppers, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped (about 3/4 – 1  cup chopped)
  • 2 or 3 jalapenos, seeded if you prefer less heat
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
Chop all this up, boil it for a couple of hours, hit it with an immersion blender, run it through a food mill, then add all this stuff.

  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Bring it back to a boil, then store it as you prefer. 

Voila! The BEST home made tomato soup!


  1. recipe bookmarked. you are hilarious. ALSO I want to mention it's funny that this is robot barn but in order to comment I have to prove I'm not a robot ARE YOU DISCRIMINATING???

    1. The test is probably whether or not you are reading recipes sine it is my understanding that robots do not eat.