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Summer's Last Hurrah - A Sweet and Tangy Homemade Tomato Soup Recipe
The Best Homemade Tomato Soup
The Trip Down Memory Lane
September 2008: On this last day of summer in southeastern Pennsylvania, with its delightfully cool temperature and cloudless sky, making homemade tomato soup is the perfect way to celebrate the memories, sounds, and scents of the summer seasons, present and past, as they fade into autumn.
I learned to make this outstanding sweet and tangy tomato soup from my friend and neighbor, Joleen, many years ago, when our children were young and our large gardens overflowed with tomatoes at the end of summer.
The distinctive late-summer fragrance of this tomato soup always reminds me of those early days of camaraderie in Joleen's old-fashioned kitchen. Toddlers would be playing in the cupboards, some good bluegrass would be finding its way into the kitchen from the living room stereo (yes, those were the vinyl days), and Tom, Joleen's husband, would be in the kitchen with us, jarring honey brought in from the beehives in the back forty.
A Patient Soup Lover
That Was Then, This Is Now
Today, I make tomato soup with my big old dog patiently lying on the kitchen floor, and I listen to the radio for news and commentary. But Joleen and those magical days are in my thoughts.
My head is full of the contrast between yesterday and today. Yesterday there were toddlers and bluegrass, today there are a big Goldie dog lying on the floor, and news and talk on the radio.
Making tomato soup is a time for reflection. With anticipation of the relaxing and mindless stirring of the pot to come, where thoughts can swirl to anywhere, I say a silent prayer of thanks for the soup soon to be in the pot and the joy of making it.
Let's Get On with the Recipe
Prepare yourself for being in the kitchen for most of the day with this recipe. If you are an instant-gratification person, you may want to team up with a friend who is not, or open up a can of condensed tomato soup and call it a day!
This is a two-part recipe. In the first part, you will be making the soup base; in the second, the soup itself.
My Vintage Foley Food Mill
Tools and Gadgets You Will Need
- Foley food mill
- 8-Quart (or larger) heavy soup pot
- OXO one-quart measuring cup
The Foley food mill The Foley food mill has been a must-have tool in the kitchen for decades. Most folks are familiar with it for making applesauce. Although there may be newer inventions for separating seeds and skins from tomatoes while still retaining the texture of the pulp, the Foley food mill is just too much fun and too invigorating to pass by. Here's hoping that you exercise your arms regularly, because the process of extracting the pulp from the base will give you quite a workout!
The Indispensable OXO Cup
The large soup pot Since you will be working with approximately 5 quarts of raw vegetables, a large soup pot is a must. And the heavier it is, the better, so that the low heat you will be working with distributes evenly throughout the bottom of the pot.
The measuring cup You've heard the expression, "Use the right tool for the right job." As the Foley food mill is the right tool for separating seeds and skins from tomatoes in creating this tomato soup, the OXO one-quart cup is the right tool for measuring both the raw ingredients and the finished product. This smart device lets you read the measurement units from above, rather than from the side, a convenient and safety-conscious feature when handling hot liquids in large amounts. Also, with this lightweight, one-quart size, you'll fill the cup with raw ingredients fewer times and with more accuracy.
OXO Cups for the Kitchen
Fresh Is the Key!
Part 1, Ingredients and Method for Making the Soup Base
If you are fortunate to have a garden brimming with tomatoes, parsley, and onions, and you have whole cloves, black pepper, salt, sugar, corn starch, and butter on hand, then you need do no shopping for the ingredients in this outstanding tomato soup recipe. If you don't have a garden, look to your local farm market for fresh tomatoes, onions, and parsley before heading out to the supermarket. The fresher the ingredients, the better the tomato soup.
- 9 to 10 large tomatoes (or 18 small to medium sized tomatoes), about three quarts sliced
- 6 medium onions, peeled, about 1 and ½ quarts sliced fine
- 8 Tablespoons sugar
- 5 Whole cloves
- 1 Cup whole fresh parsley leaves, loosely packed
- 1 Tablespoon salt
Combine and cook Combine these ingredients and put them in the large soup pot, uncovered, on a very low heat (low or simmer). Soon, liquid will appear at the bottom of the pot. Let the tomatoes and onions break down under this low heat for about an hour, stirring the contents now and again. Cook the base just enough to break down the tomatoes and onions. Do not over-cook.
Remove the pot from the stove and let it cool, covered, for an hour or two, enough time to cool the contents of the pot to less than scalding.
Take a break This is a good time to step out of the house and kitchen, get the mail from the mailbox, drain and walk the dog, or run an errand. When you come back, a heavenly scent will greet you.
Time To Use the Foley Food Mill
Now you are ready for the Foley food mill. Suspend the mill over a very large bowl and ladle or pour about a third of the broken down tomatoes and onions, along with liquid, into the mill. Crank away! Repeat twice more (you don't want so much broken down material that the residue starts to climb up the sides of the mill and fall into the bowl). Every time you think you've had enough, crank a few more turns, until there is less than one cup total of residue left in the mill. These last turns will yield a thick, red pulp.
Return the milled base to the large soup pot.
In a hurry? If you would like to finish the soup another day, you can refrigerate the base for up to two days, or pour it into containers and freeze it for up to three months.
What's New in Food Mills
Part 2, Ingredients and Method for Making the Soup
- 1 Quart plus 1 cup water
- 6 Tablespoons corn starch
- ½ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Combine the ingredients Make a smooth mixture of 1 cup of the water and the corn starch. Then add the remaining water, the corn starch mix, and the rest of the ingredients to the soup pot containing the soup base.
Slow-cook the soup Simmer, uncovered, until thickened. Stir occasionally and skim away any froth and "skin" that form. The key here is slow cooking, so that the soup does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. It will take 1½ to 2 hours of slow cooking to thicken and reduce the soup by about 20% of its volume. You are looking for a slightly thickened texture, not the heavy, thick texture you might be accustomed to.
Yield About 3 quarts of heavenly tomato soup.
Are You Cooking for One?
Don't hesitate to make this recipe just because you usually cook only for yourself. Make the entire recipe, freeze individual-sized portions and follow the reheating method described in What To Do with Leftovers?. Those frozen, thawed, and heated smaller portions make for a convenient and hearty lunch, or dinner, especially when summer is gone and snow is on the ground.
Find more tips for planning and preparing meals for one here.
Did You Know...? A Little Tomato Trivia
- The tomato is the most popular fruit in the world, and yes, it is a fruit, not a vegetable, even though the US Supreme Court ruled the tomato a vegetable in 1893.
- Tomato juice is Ohio's official state beverage.
- A tomato has no cholesterol and is rich in vitamins A and C and the antioxidant lycopene.
- The tomato's scientific name is lycopersicon lycopersicum. Lycopersicum means "wolf peach."
- On average, an American eats 80 pounds of tomatoes per year.
- Almost half the tomatoes in the world are produced in California.
- When tomatoes were first brought to Europe from Mexico, they weren't very popular. That is, until a smart marketing guru hyped them up as aphrodisiacs, and that is why they are called poma amoris by the Italians and pomme d'amour by the French.
Enjoy this soup as hot as you can stand it. It's the clove in the very hot soup that creates a warm and soothing effect on the back of your throat.
If you like, add fresh sweet corn cut from the cob and thinly sliced raw carrots 15 minutes before finishing.
Pair with grilled Jarlesburg cheese sandwiches on 15-grain bread for a hearty lunch.
What To Do with Leftovers?
Like all good soups, this tomato soup is even better the next day.
If you'd like to freeze the leftovers, you will need to take special care when it's time to thaw and heat them. During freezing, the soup's texture will change from smooth and creamy to somewhat grainy, where the tomato appears to have separated from the liquid.
To restore the original texture, heat the soup on the stove at a low-medium setting and whisk until hot and bubbly.
Can’t Get Enough of the Tomato? Check out these delightful tomato Hubs.
- The History and Lore of the Fabulous Jersey Tomato
A beautiful essay on the most famous of tomatoes.
- 5 Ways To Use a Green Tomato
Especially if you have gallons of them on hand.
- Why Heirloom Tomatoes? Flavor, Quality, Nutrition, and More
There is a difference!
- How To Preserve Summer’s Bounty Quickly
Who says you can't freeze whole, uncooked tomatoes?
Tomato Soup, Love It or Hate It?
People seem to react to tomato soup like they do to cilantro: they either love it or hate it. Until I had Joleen’s sweet and tangy tomato soup, I was among the haters. How about you?
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Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.